Executive Director Blog: Gender Parity and Ending Sexual Violence

The annual International Women’s Day falls on March 8th. The 2018 theme across the globe is Press for Progress, a call to action to create and support gender parity, and to challenge it when we don’t see it.

Over the last several months, I have been asked more times than I can count to comment on what can possibly be seen as a watershed moment for women: the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns and the collective impact of so many high-profile cases of sexual violence coming to light.  We saw polls showing that 3 out of 10 women in Canada reported having experienced sexual harassment in their workplace.  This is not a historical problem; this is a problem right now.  Gender parity does not exist in a world where women still have to be afraid that their livelihood and personal safety may be impacted by someone else’s behaviour.

I’m frequently asked by the media to comment on the nature of the mass disclosures that are happening in this landscape.  Do I think these are helpful? Moving the issue forward? Why do some women choose not to disclose? What if what they say isn’t true?

There are many reasons that anyone may choose to disclose, or not disclose, having experienced sexual violence. This is a deeply personal decision and people should be supported no matter their decision. The reality is that we continue to live in a world where there can be many potential negative outcomes to disclosure. Women still fight every day to be believed, heard, and for their safety, post disclosure.  We have significant societal shifts ahead of us before one can imagine a world where disclosure does not carry some risk.  Do I believe that is happening? I really want to, but we still have a lot of work to do.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a week-long focus on women by CJOB, and speak specifically about this issue. Not surprisingly, one of the things I was asked was whether I had a personal story of harassment in the workplace that I would be willing to share.  Like many women, I had several.  The one I chose to share says something to me about how the world can be different for women than men-and so I choose to share it here to illustrate this point.

Many years ago when starting a new leadership position, my predecessor, also a woman, who was quite a bit senior to me, took the time to give me a very thorough orientation over several meetings.  Around our last meeting she shared with me that there were certain individuals whom she felt I should avoid being alone with, particularly in travelling, which could be part of the job.  She gave me several practical tips, which I was very grateful for. I went home and shared them with my partner, and we created a bit of a plan.  To be honest, I can’t recall having spent even that much time thinking about it, though I will say there were several times I was happy I had.  It was honestly not until many years later that I truly started to think about how it is that my workplace orientation included developing strategies to keep myself safe from the people I would be working with.

So, in honour of International Women’s Day, I want to share the below quiz that we often use in presentations on sexual violence and encourage anyone reading to spend a minute taking it and thinking about how unconscious bias continues to impact women in our world, and what you can do about it.

SEXUAL ASSAULT ACCEPTANCE SCALE

Please read each of the following statements and circle the number which best describes your feelings about each:

1                        2                      3                     4                     5

Strongly Agree ————————————————– Strongly Disagree

  1. A woman who goes home with a man on their first date is not implying that she wants to have sex.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Women rarely make false reports of sexual assault.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Sexual assault is not a crime of passion: is not about sex at all.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Women dress for comfort, attractiveness, and sometimes to show themselves off: none of these things justify sexual assault.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. The majority of sexual assaults are committed by men women already know: family members, coaches, teachers, clergy, co-workers, etc.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. If a woman says “yes” following verbal coercion, threats, physical force, or manipulation, she has not given consent.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Women of all backgrounds, sizes, and abilities, can be sexually assaulted.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. A victim’s sexual history has nothing to do with being sexually assaulted.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Attackers are men from all classes, races and ages. You cannot tell who uses sexual violence based on their appearance.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. When a woman is fooling around with a partner, the only way her partner can tell that she wants to have sex is if she chooses to give consent.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Women who are hitchhiking do not deserve to get sexually assaulted.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. If a woman gets really drunk at a party and agrees to have sex, she has not legally consented.

1   2   3   4   5

  1. Sexual assault is caused by one person deciding to act violently toward another.

1   2   3   4   5

Credit- Klinic Sexual Assault Program

 

Learn more about Klinic’s Sexual Assault Crisis Counselling here.