ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE
COMITÉ SPÉCIAL DE LA VIOLENCE
ET DU HARCÈLEMENT
À CARACTÈRE SEXUEL
Wednesday 6 May 2015 Mercredi 6 mai 2015
The committee met at 0900 in committee room 1.
Strategy on sexual violence and harassment
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Good morning, everyone. The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment will now come to order.
I would like to welcome all of our presenters and our guests who are with us here today. Let me share with you very quickly the mandate of this committee. We’re here to listen to the experiences of survivors, front-line workers, advocates and experts on the issue of sexual violence and harassment. You will inform us on how to shift social norms and barriers that are preventing people from coming forward to report abuses.
However, I do want to stress that we do not have the power or the authority to investigate individual cases. That is better left to the legal authorities.
We welcome you and thank you for adding your voice to this important issue.
Fathers Are Capable Too
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Our first guest this morning is Brian Jenkins. You will now have 15 minutes to speak to our committee and they will then ask you some questions. Start by stating your name and begin any time.
Mr. Brian Jenkins: My name is Brian Jenkins. I’m representing Fathers Are Capable Too parenting association. Fathers Are Capable Too is an Ontario non-profit corporation run by a board elected from the membership. We are a self-help, all-voluntary group of men and women. Our emphasis is on protecting children, particularly from the unnecessary loss of a parent during a relationship breakdown.
We have taken a look at the current practices in Ontario and we do think that the way things are going is quite damaging to the health of our children and is not allowing our children the protection that they need. There are some other issues, too, which I will bring up a little bit in my talking.
I do apologize. My background is as a statistician. Statistics is everybody’s favourite topic first thing in the morning, but you’re about to get some, I’m sorry.
One of the things with sexual violence is a need to define what it is that we’re talking about. That’s more of an issue in sexual violence than in anything else. Somebody would consider anybody who was walking down the street sticking their hands down people’s pants and grabbing their genitals as a sexual assault. But in the case of Michelle Lawes in Toronto, Ontario, she did this to men, and robbed them at the same time, and the Toronto police decided that wasn’t a sexual assault. In fact, they decided it wasn’t an assault; they instead decided it was a distraction. So we have cases of what should be, to most normal people, a fairly common definition of sexual assault, but something that happened is just brushed off and ignored in some cases. It’s really important to have a good definition if you’re going to move forward on things like this.
Statutory rape is another one. The one that, of course, comes to mind on that is the teacher, Heather Ingram, from BC, who was convicted of statutory rape and sentenced to house arrest, where she lived with her victim. I believe she is still living with him, although he is now an adult. So how we handle statutory rapes and things like that in this country varies very much, and if we’re going to set standards then we should be setting real standards that apply to everybody.
We have an interesting situation as well in Ontario because it’s assumed that sexual assault is just a crime against women. It is a crime against both genders, and whatever recommendations this committee has should actually be focused on looking after both genders.
Hanna Rosin in Slate wrote that the normal US statistics from the national criminal survey there are that around 15% of all sexual assault victims are male. Apparently in 2013 that bumped up to 38% and nobody quite knows why.
There is an excellent Canadian resource, called The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimization of Male Children and Teens by Fred Mathews, that was published by Health Canada in 1996. I’d strongly recommend it for anybody who’s taking a look at dealing with the laws to take a look at this federal government publication, because it is quite important. It is still available from Health Canada. It is available on Amazon, if you want to buy it from Amazon. I do have copies if anybody would like copies. I didn’t think bringing everybody a 60-page book was a really good idea, unless they wanted it. It does a great survey of the nature of the beast in Canada for everybody, and then does tend to focus on boys.
The general male population in Canada: According to those statistics, around 14% of all men have been victims of sexual abuse.
Other subgroups of people are higher than that; certain criminals are higher. If you look at page 17, they give those. As a percentage of actual sexual abuse victims and not just of males, it’s a little bit higher than the 14%. They have a list of those on page 18, if you’re interested.
It is a problem for both men and women, both adults and children. We have issues on that. One of the things that is often brought up is supposedly the differences in reporting. I’d refer back to a paper by John Archer, published in Aggression and Violent Behavior, volume 7, called “Sex Differences in Physically Aggressive Acts Between Heterosexual Partners: A Meta-Analytic Review.”
This one interviewed the men and—actually, they interviewed both partners. In his study on less violent forms of violence, and not just sexual violence, the men tended to under-report their violence relative to what their female partner said. But on the more severe forms of violence—choking; threatening with a knife or gun; sexual violence—they tended to report just about the same levels as the women did. So there’s not really a big difference in the reporting for men and women for those sorts of crimes—or admitting, at least in private, what happened.
Again, coming back to the police, though, the police do not recognize everything, and edit it, so using police statistics is very misleading. The last time there was a total compilation of victimization rates and police rates was in the 2000 StatsCan survey on family violence. If you read that through, table 2.10 shows that there were about 690,000 female victims of physical violence and 549,000 male victims—so, roughly the same.
Of the female victims, 37% had the crimes reported to the police—about 256,000, according to them. Only 15% of male victims—considerably less than half—had police reports. Of the reports to the police, for women, about 80% of the time, the violence is reported by the victim and 22% of the time by others. Males only reported themselves 50% of the time. The other 50% were reported by other people: family members or witnesses to what was going on. So we do see from StatsCan, from the victimization, that there are about 3.12 times more female reports to police about women victims than about men.
We then take a look at StatsCan—as I said, don’t forget, I’m a statistician, so I tend to look at these things. The next table is about police reports. The police reports are a little different, because they use a different population, so you can’t compare the numbers straight off. You have to be a little sneaky, as a statistician, to make it on a comparable basis.
In a police report, the police will listen to you. They’ll actually open a file, write down the number and give it a case number, and then it’s a police report. Just going and talking to them doesn’t make it a police report.
Police indicate that in that year, there were 23,502 reports for female victims but only 3,598 reports for males. Given that there were 23,502 reports for female victims, and that 3.12 ratio for what the victims said were reported to the police, we’d expect around 7,300 reports for males, and it was less than half that. So somewhere along the line with the police, it’s being edited down to be something less than that.
There is a fairly famous quote from a blogger in the US by the name of Chelsea Cristene, whose comment was that when women go and report sexual violence to the police, they tell them to wear less revealing clothes and not walk at night. When men go and report sexual violence to the police, they tell them it didn’t happen. The police tell the men that it wasn’t sexual violence; it did not happen.
We have to do something about having a mandated thing for actually tracking sexual violence rather than editing it in our bureaucratic system. I think that’s an important thing that any legislation has to take a look at.
However, with respect to reporting, there’s always the chance that things aren’t reported correctly, that there are false accusations made. Certainly, in the areas of divorce, we see a number of things with that.
The only study that I know of that really covered that was one called “False Rape Allegations,” which was done by Dr. Eugene Kanin of Purdue University, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, volume 21, number 1. This studied rape—and by “rape” I mean penetration—and it was basically of adult females by adult males in a small Midwestern US town. What they did—not because of prosecution, not because of feelings of guilt—is, they took a look at the voluntary withdrawals of charges over the course of two years after the allegations were made. They considered those as being unfounded, and 41% of the rape claims were classed as unfounded. The women gave a variety of reasons why the claims are made, which are documented in the paper.
There’s another paper that’s a little more recent called “Pathways to False Allegations of Sexual Harassment,” by William O’Donohue and Adrian Bowers of the University of Nevada. That was published in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, volume 3; that’s from 2006. They identified 14 pathways, as they call them, to people making false accusations. They tended to be very serious things: borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, psychosis, gender prejudice, substance abuse, dementia, false memories, false interpretations, biased interviews, sociopathy, other personality disorders that weren’t the other ones mentioned, investigative mistakes and mistakes in determination of degree. These are serious, and unfortunately not that uncommon, problems and clearly things that should be taken into account when allegations are made.
The problem that we have is that the falsely accused in our society are treated exactly the same as the guilty. They may not end up in jail, but just a finding of innocence doesn’t do anything. These people still have professional and personal disruption, job loss, broken life relationships and extremely high rates of suicide. They need protection too, because they were victims of another crime, and I think that has to be taken into account with anything that happens here. Multiple punishments are not necessarily the way to do it; it is protection.
There is a quote on enforcement, which I hope this committee doesn’t end up with. This is from an Ontario Superior Court judge, quoted on July 27, 2008, in courtroom 37 of the Ottawa Courthouse: “Luckily in Canada, we don’t need evidence to have a man charged with domestic violence.” That’s from a judge, and I would hope that we put in a policy that’s better than that in Ontario for anything else.
Let me just focus back on the kids. We talked about false accusations and the problems with adults, but let’s take a look at the kids, what the kids are being told and what the reality is. Going back to The Invisible Boy, Fred Matthews quotes a number of statistics in that. Ramsey-Klawsnik says that of sexually abused males, 30% of the time, the perpetrator is an adult female, and 19% of the time, it’s a teenage female. Kaufman et al. say that of those female perpetrators, 8% are teachers and 23% are babysitters. In the victimization surveys, the ones where people report what the victimization is, men typically report that 60% of the time, it’s a female perpetrator.
Why this is important: O’Brien did a study of young male victims of female sexual abuse who then became sexual abusers; they almost exclusively choose female victims. Their victimization is carrying over into another generation if you let these sorts of things go, and that’s not a good thing for anybody else.
Karen Weiss of West Virginia University has a paper called “Male Sexual Victimization: Examining Men’s Experiences of Rape and Sexual Assault,” published in Men and Masculinities, volume 12, number 3; that was from 2010. She did a survey of the US National Crime Victimization Survey, and it shows that 45% of abusers of males—teenagers and adults—were women. Just because people talk about it within that survey: It showed that 90% of men and women actually resisted the sexual assault, so it was very comparable numbers for resistance, as well.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Jenkins, you have one minute left.
Mr. Brian Jenkins: Thank you.
So what are we telling our kids? First of all, untruthful stereotyping by gender or by sex is harassment in its own right, and it’s not helping anybody. It’s like applying the concept of original sin to boys.
Boys are not so much the problem as ignorance and intolerance is. Telling the children untruths about the perpetrators and where these things are coming from and who’s doing it stops them from recognizing the abuse or protecting themselves in those situations. I think that is really a serious problem, if we don’t do these sorts of things that are balanced.
As well, if you tell all boys that they’re these sorts of things, you’re actually creating a normative behaviour—this is what people are supposed to behave like—and that’s not true. Let’s face it, if we saw an aging rock star shove his tongue down a woman’s throat on a stage in front of tens of thousands of people, we would say something. When Madonna did it to Drake, it was very silent. We have to let our kids know that that type of behaviour is not right, and we have to protect our kids from those types of behaviour.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. Our first questions for you are going to be from our PC caucus. Members, I just want to remind you that with our new shorter format, we have a total of five minutes for all three caucuses to ask their questions, so I would encourage you all to be very concise with your questions. Please begin.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Thank you very much for appearing here today. I just want to say that this is the first time we’ve met in May. This is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. I just wanted to put that on the record.
I didn’t know if you had something else you wanted to add, or I can ask a question. What do you prefer, because I only have about a minute, probably.
Mr. Brian Jenkins: The only thing I would have added is that I do have copies of all the papers if anybody wants them.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Okay. Excellent stats—there was a lot of information there. Thank you for coming today. What do you think is the best thing we can do, either in education out there in the public, because we’ve heard a lot in this committee about the revealing statistics of how many men are assaulted—what do you think, in the short time? Is it training with the police to be more aware, to record differently, to be more sensitive to it? I’m sure it’s also part of the education system. Choose one of those to answer in the short time that I have.
Mr. Brian Jenkins: Quickly, I think the education system has to change to where it makes all genders aware of what sexual abuse is and how to recognize it and what’s going on. I do think that for adults, yes, there has to be a very significant change in the education of police.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Okay.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our next question for you is from our NDP caucus.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you for the presentation. One of the things that you mentioned that surprised me was around the similar rates of reporting experiences of violence between men and women. The difference, you said, comes in the police opening files to investigate the allegations.
One of the things we had heard earlier in this committee is about men’s reluctance to report because of stigma, because of not being believed. I wonder if you could comment on that, about men’s willingness to report.
Mr. Brian Jenkins: Being sort of front-line, let me do this. First of all, men report less. Of the reports to police, 37% were about female victims. There is roughly an equal number of victims—only 15% of male victims. So there’s a lot less reporting on the males. The men report less. One of the problems in our society and that we do see is that males who report domestic violence are usually arrested.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our final question for you is from our Liberal caucus.
Mr. Peter Z. Milczyn: Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. You covered a lot of ground. Just very briefly: Are you aware of any jurisdictions or any programs that have been effective to address the stigma that males feel about reporting? Have there been effective programs anywhere to encourage male reporting of sexual violence?
Mr. Brian Jenkins: There was an attempt to do so in Alberta, which lasted for a very short period of time because, basically, the males who reported found out they weren’t listened to and arrested.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Jenkins, I want to thank you very much for coming and appearing before this committee today. If you wish, we invite you to join our audience and to listen to our next presenters.
Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I would like to call on the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, Deb Singh, to come forward. Make yourself comfortable and please start by stating your name. Begin any time.
Ms. Deb Singh: Good morning, everyone. My name is Deb Singh. I’m going to begin. I’m a counsellor and activist at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape. I want to thank the committee today for allowing us, here on the land of the people of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat and Métis of Ontario, the opportunity to do this work and this deputation.
I would like to start today by saying that as an organization that celebrated its 40th year in 2014, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape has been supporting survivors as well as preventing violence for just about that long. Today we are going to highlight one of the ways we have been doing these things through education and training.
I would like to introduce you to Kathryn. Kathryn has been a volunteer of the TRCC for about five years. When Kathryn first started at the crisis line as a volunteer, she was trained on topics such as violence against women, feminism, anti-oppression, peer counselling, the global war on women, working across difference, policies and procedures, activism and, of course, sexual violence. As time went on, she learned even more about dealing with trauma, rape culture and legal and medical interventions as well as violence prevention.
Kathryn started thinking differently about the world we live in. When her co-worker shared a racist joke at work, she felt empowered to name it. When her friend sent her a sexist email forward, she felt the need to interrupt it. When friends shared opinions on survivors lying about rape, she needed to address it. When a family member needed support when they were going through something, she listened and offered resources. The ongoing training and learning she was doing at the TRCC/MWAR was affecting just about everybody she knew, whether they liked it or not.
Training and education are crucial to violence prevention. The TRCC/MWAR imagines having even more tools to access information, outreach to more volunteers and change even more minds about what is permissible when it comes to sex. Although some might believe that we work in a limited capacity, only servicing women once violence has occurred, we in fact serve all survivors of violence, and we are in the business of changing attitudes through education and access.
According to our centre statistics, 16% of our callers on our 24-hour crisis line are male-identified. While we currently train cisgender women, trans men, trans women, two-spirited and gender-queer folks on our crisis line, we also train cisgender men in the contexts of universities, high schools, after-school programs, service providers etc. But without more funding, we have only been able to do outreach and create workshops and training modules to a point.
As the only rape crisis centre in the city of Toronto, we want to facilitate workshops and conduct formal training with even more groups of men in diverse communities working to end sexual violence through education. While it is a humble request, no one can underestimate the power of breaking the silence around sexual violence, even in the context of education.
The training aspect of our centre goes beyond individual volunteers on our crisis line. We train service providers, students, academics, faculty, police, legal personnel and other rape crisis centre workers. We are also involved in informal restorative justice and community accountability procedures and policy-making when organizations, communities or institutions have had a sexual assault happen within them and are asked to enforce or create a policy around the violence.
In conjunction with this, communities often also request that we facilitate conversations, as the violence has of course affected the entire group or community, not only the survivor and the perpetrator. This work is particularly crucial because it offers a space for folks around the survivors or perpetrators to debrief and support each other with formal tools we can offer and support in creating structures and policies when sexual violence happens within their community, organization or group again.
With additional funds, we would be able, with survivors, to co-create restorative justice measures that could possibly support whole communities in terms of healing and where numbers of community members are affected by the sexual violence. We can be part of creating many opportunities to talk and heal in an ongoing fashion.
While we can’t divulge the communities or groups in which we have done this work, we can say we have been asked to support people on university campus housing, games clubs, community organizations, feminist publication groups and non-profit bookstores, just to name a few. We have supported such communities when rape or other forms of violent oppression have occurred in their context and they require a number of different supports, which include, but are not limited to, emotional support—group or individual—policy and procedure writing, community accountability models, workshops and ongoing support over time.
To be more specific, if we were to receive a significant increase in sustainable core funding from the It’s Never Okay campaign, the opportunities to expand our work to include more training opportunities for ourselves and our volunteers both inside and outside the TRCC/MWAR, to increase awareness, to increase accessibility and to increase outreach would be transformative in the fight to eradicate sexual violence.
Many of the groups who have made deputations to this committee are experts in their fields. It is important that we listen and we learn from one another, all working to the same goal: to end violence against women and trans people.
As mentioned, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape has 40 years of experience delivering front-line services, training and education, which translates into 40 years-worth of exercises, training and workshop modules that we have created to attempt to create a more just world. We have been able to share an oral history of anti-oppressive, self-work exercises for years, but most recently, with a one-time grant, we were able to use technology differently—i.e., acquire a laptop and a projector—making our workshops and training modules more accessible for different learning styles as well as more accessible based on ability and age.
So the simplest things will make violence prevention an actual possibility, if we just invest in them.
We know the It’s Never Okay campaign has a keen emphasis on reporting violence as a tool to stop it. In our experience as a sexual assault/rape crisis centre, this is unfortunately not the case. We can create measures where survivors may feel more confident to report the occurrence of sexual assault, but this alone will not stop the violence. In fact, reporting itself has not decreased the instance of violence. Our communities of men have to feel less invested in the permissible nature of sexual violence in our current world. There must be more to encourage men not to rape, not just the fear of punitive measures. We must create a culture of consent in place of the culture of rape that currently exists. We believe time, education and more money to all of the organizations who have lobbied is one of the answers to that.
SACs and rape crisis centres, in particular, have been underfunded for a long while and we can see this reflected in many ways. Our recommendation to the It’s Never Okay campaign in preventing violence against women and trans people is to provide sustainable funding to SACs and RCCs as we have been doing this work in prevention and education for decades. Every time one of us, as workers, is asked what our job is, we are providing information about sexual violence to the community, debunking myths and breaking the silence around violence when speaking the word “rape.” We are doing so much of the work to prevent sexual violence against women and trans people in our community, but it’s not only on us. It is on the men of Ontario and the world to stop sexual violence, and that’s why we think education and training are so important.
In our experience, survivors have not had positive experiences when reporting rape. From being made to feel like if she doesn’t report rape it’s on her if it happens again to not being believed by police, it is a real travesty that we have needed to coin a phrase like “double victimization.” With that in our minds, it is our hope, our vision at the TRCC/MWAR to turn the It’s Never Okay funding into a place where survivors have access to research and actively use as an option the tools and methods of restorative justice/community accountability models.
For decades, the TRCC has been using these methods with survivors to get their own more emotionally satisfying brand of justice. We have encouraged survivors to take action in their community through letter writing, group or singular support to the survivor, and even mediation with the perpetrator. While the restorative justice model may not be for everyone, it is useful and comforting to offer survivors places where this form of support can centralize the survivor in the process versus being a witness to the crime against them. Further, we are in support of a model that allows for more concrete measures, again directed by the survivors—than simply the punitive model.
One thing I can say with the utmost confidence about the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape is that we act as accountably as possible to the communities of sexual assault survivors out there. That is, as we work to support survivors and end violence, our compass is always directed by what the community is asking for.
When we have upwards of 200 new volunteers a year at the centre, when we have so many requests for support when sexual violence has happened in their group or community or to the individual that there is a backlog among our seven paid staff—we know that this is a reflection of what is needed in our city and province.
Our community at large is asking for more information about sexual violence, support to survivors, survivor-driven resources, tools and accountability methods. It is, in fact, exciting to support various communities. While violence has affected them, they are empowered enough to reach out and ask for what they think is needed.
As I come to the end of my presentation, I need to highlight the following recommendations from the TRCC/MWAR:
(1) an increase in funding for sexual assault centres and rape crisis centres;
(2) training and education for SACs and RCCs in leadership;
(3) aboriginal-led community resources, including training for SACs;
(4) gender-based analysis; and
(5) training and education directed towards boys and men.
Without these there is no way forward.
At the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, we believe this is a critical opportunity for you, for us and for society as a whole. When we receive our existing core funding, we put that money to work as rape crisis centres and sexual assault centres. Now is a crucial time, and we have a huge opportunity with how to allocate the funds from the province. SACs and rape crisis centres have done astonishing work with existing funds. Imagine what we could create to support survivors with this campaign.
While our organizations may benefit from these funds, the Ontario government and society have even more to gain. We can present ourselves as leaders in the country, even in a global context, on what is really needed in a movement to end sexual violence. We hope you engage in that opportunity with us. Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you, Ms. Singh. Our first questions for you are from our NDP caucus.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Yes, thank you very much. I am astonished that you have only seven paid staff, and that the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre is the only rape crisis centre in the city of Toronto. Where do women who experience sexual assault in this city go for support? You must be overwhelmed with people coming to you.
Ms. Deb Singh: Absolutely. Of course, every organization in the city pretty much has a waiting list, and that’s partially a part of existing core funding. Also, there are a number of different organizations that women turn to. But in fact, when sexual assaults happen in the city, we’re also inundated with media requests and requests to speak and do workshops, so there is an increase in that too. Yes, we become super-backlogged in terms of being able to support survivors.
Of course, the amazing thing is that we do have our 24-hour crisis line, which has upward of 90 volunteers on it. It is a 24-hour crisis line, so we’re able to direct survivors to get some support there. But it isn’t ongoing support. It isn’t the kind of healing work that survivors are asking for. It’s only immediate, as it is only a crisis line.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our next question for you is from our Liberal caucus.
Ms. Soo Wong: Thank you very much, Ms. Singh, for being here today, and to your volunteers for being here. I want to acknowledge your presence here at the committee.
I’m hearing the recommendations you’re asking this select committee to consider. I also want to hear more of your conversation about diverse urban Toronto. I am a Toronto member, in Scarborough. What are some of the challenges you’re facing for your centre? Being here for 40 years, what are some of the top challenges that you’re facing right now to support the very large, diverse population called the city of Toronto?
Ms. Deb Singh: I would say that our top challenge is our core sustainable funding. If we had more funding, we would obviously be able to reach out to the GTA.
With that said, people in Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Markham etc. often contact the centre—survivors looking for individual, face-to-face support, from having experienced interpersonal violence, and also service providers as well as schools etc., and we just can’t fulfill all of the requests. So with more funding we would be able to reach out to various parts of Toronto, including the GTA, because they’re looking for the very keen and diverse support that we are able to provide at the centre, being the hub of what it means to support sexual assault survivors out there.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our final questions for you are from our PC caucus.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much for being here. I just want to zero in on one phrase. You mentioned that this is not a positive experience, and we all understand that. I was wondering if you have developed a checklist or a list of what can be done that would be a more positive experience, or in the alternative, take away those things that create a negative experience. I’m just wondering if you’ve developed some sort of checklist or priorities that need to be altered to make it less negative.
Ms. Deb Singh: For survivors?
Mr. Randy Hillier: Yes.
Ms. Deb Singh: When we connect with individual survivors, we give women or trans people—which is the majority of people who come to the centre—many options. We don’t tell them what is a good experience or a bad experience.
Mr. Randy Hillier: No, no. What I was wondering—if somebody, for example, suffers from violence—rape or sexual assault, however you want to categorize it—and their experience through the police and the court system is a further negative experience, I’m wondering if you’ve developed some sort of template or some sort of checklist that says, “These are the things that add to the negative experience and we need to minimize them or mitigate them,” and/or, “These are some options which may make it less of a negative” that we ought to be exploring or looking to incorporate into the process.
Ms. Deb Singh: As every survivor is different, and every experience is different, often the feelings are the same, or similar. We allow survivors to choose their own options, so we’ll give survivors a number of different options to choose from. So there is a sort of checklist, but rather it’s more about being able to understand that there is going to be different kinds of work that the survivor wants to do. Some of it will be legal, some of it will be emotional, some of it might be physical or medical, so we allow and give a lot of different options for survivors and support them through those options through accompaniment, face-to-face counselling, information resources etc.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much, Ms. Singh, for your presentation this morning. I invite you to sit with our audience if you wish to.
Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I would like to call on our next presenters; they are with the Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence. Please come forward. Make yourselves comfortable. You’re going to have 15 minutes to address our committee. Please begin by stating your names. Begin any time.
Ms. Julia Manuel: I’m Julia Manuel and I’m the manager of the Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region.
Ms. Emma Harvey: I’m Emma Harvey and I’m the collaborative coordinator of the Durham Region’s Intimate-relationship Violence Empowerment Network, or DRIVEN.
Ms. Rubaiyat Karim: I’m Rubaiyat Karim and I’m the program manager for the York Region Centre for Community Safety. You will have a handout in front of you with our PowerPoint slides as we go along.
Ms. Emma Harvey: The Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence is a group of community projects that support an innovative and effective response to survivors of family violence. The Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence represents a collaboration of agencies that provide a coordinated response to maximize supports in one location, enhance survivor accessibility and ultimately save lives.
There are seven community projects that are members of the Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence. We are dispersed across southern Ontario. The hubs are located in Waterloo, York, Durham, Peel, Peterborough and two in Toronto.
In Canada and around the world, these multi-agency service delivery models are referred to by different names, such as hubs, but share the core concept of providing one place where survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and family violence can go to have their multiple needs met.
The group of community hubs that form the Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence offer a multidisciplinary team housed under one roof. When it hasn’t been possible for all partner agencies to co-locate, the concept has been expanded to include networks of off-site collaborating partners to whom the on-site partners connect survivors that same day, ensuring no one drops through the cracks between services and reducing the barriers to service.
Our hubs are based on the family justice centre model. In 1999, the community safety audit was completed in San Diego, which identified that survivors of domestic violence had to go to 32 separate places to receive supports. The profound upside to this finding is that there are many services available. The downside is that there’s a gauntlet that survivors and children have to navigate to obtain services.
Through focus groups with survivors, it was decided that the best route to go was the one-stop-shop model of service. The one-stop model of service involved the co-location of a multidisciplinary team of professionals who work together under one roof to provide coordinated services to survivors of family violence.
In the United States, these centres are called the family justice centres. They are defined in federal law and government funded. The first family justice centre opened in San Diego in 2002. It has been demonstrated that coordinated support has increased service usage at these family justice centres.
Violence against women has always been inclusive of sexual violence and includes domestic violence, sexual violence and familial violence. It is not new for the government to look at this simultaneously. Domestic violence perpetrators often use sexual violence as a means to control and silence a victim or partner. The women who come to the hubs and experience domestic violence are also commonly experiencing sexual violence.
Our hubs provide integrated service for domestic violence, sexual violence and family violence. This one-stop model of support facilitates effective, efficient, timely and sensitive interventions.
The US Department of Justice identified the family justice centre model, a multi-sectoral model, as an evidence-informed promising practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention. The published outcomes include reduced homicides, increased survivor safety, increased autonomy and empowerment for the survivors, reduced fear and anxiety faced by the survivors, reduced recantation and minimization by survivors, increased efficiency and collaborative services to survivors among service providers, increased prosecution of offenders and dramatically increased committee support for services for survivors and children.
The Blueprint for Safety developed by Praxis International illustrates the importance of tailoring interventions to the case. By understanding and coordinating case support in regard to the frequency, circumstance and patterns of abuse, we are helping to ensure that the outcomes I have just listed are achieved.
Ms. Rubaiyat Karim: Across the seven hubs, there are 110 organizations that have taken into consideration the following documents—they make recommendations. We know that the governments of Ontario and Canada are aware of the challenges of providing services on sexual violence and domestic violence. The government recognizes the importance of collaboration amongst ministries, community organizations, service providers, professionals, violence against women organizations, survivors and their advocates to develop an effective response to sexual violence and domestic violence.
We know that co-located, collaborative, coordinated models of service that fit seamlessly into the model of practice that’s outlined in the Domestic Violence Action Plan is necessary. It further speaks to the importance of the fact that the lives of women do not conform to boundaries across programs, ministries, agencies, institutions or levels of government. We know we must make efforts to coordinate within and across sectors to create an integrated continuum of services and supports.
Across the seven hubs, as I mentioned, 110 organizations are co-located, collaborative and coordinating their services so that the supports that are provided across the sectors can be provided without boundaries or barriers to survivors.
The inquests that I’ve listed here have made recommendations to create a process to share information among service providers through case conferencing. They have made recommendations so that we are not duplicating services; in fact, we’re identifying gaps in services. They have called for increased community-based supports and services for women and children exposed to domestic and sexual violence.
They’ve asked for standardized risk and intake processes. They ask us to address and assist domestic and sexual violence survivors in a coordinated, comprehensive and cost-effective manner. In fact, what you have within the hubs is a valuable network of integrated support services that provide women and children an opportunity to live a life free of violence where they live, play and work.
As I mentioned, in all of these hubs we are co-located in coordinating services, so it is very important that we share information. As we share information, we do that with client consent and we keep in mind client confidentiality.
However, we know that there are three key challenges women face when they’re trying to access domestic and sexual violence services. The survivors themselves are often unsure of what exactly it is that they need in terms of supports or services. Often if they can identify specifically what type of help they need, they may not know who provides it or where to go to get that service. They may have identified the service that they need to get; however, getting to that location may be an issue because of geographic location.
Often when they go in to get the services, they’re having to repeatedly tell their story, further increasing the trauma they experience. Hubs across the province are really an opportunity for us to reduce those barriers, to ensure that women access services in the places that they need, at the time that they need them, without having to wait.
Ms. Julia Manuel: Across the many sectors there are multiple hidden and direct costs of domestic and sexual violence that end up being passed along to the public. In the 2010-11 fiscal year it was estimated that Ontario spent a total of $220 million across all ministries dealing with the issue of violence against women. Two thirds of these costs were for the VAW programs and services that were administered by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
A 2012 Justice Canada federal investigation into spousal abuse against women examined a broad range of economic impacts for every reported incident of spousal violence in 2009. They came up with what they call a conservative estimate of the cost to society: $4.8 billion for female victims for that one year. They found that Canada’s justice system bore roughly 7% of the total cost. Third parties—i.e. employers, social service agencies and children—incurred approximately 12%, while victims themselves bore the greatest cost burden, at more than 80%.
According to Health Canada’s National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, violence is a major factor in women’s health and well-being. The measurable health-related costs of violence against women in Canada exceed $1.5 billion per year. These costs include short-term medical and dental treatment for injuries, long-term physical and psychological care, lost time at work, and use of transition homes and crisis centres.
A report done for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives states that the costs associated with adult sexual assault and intimate partner violence combined are an estimated $9 billion.
Including health, criminal justice, social services and lost productivity from violence, it’s between $1.5 to $4.2 billion. That’s broken down, and we just picked out the main pieces:
—emergency room visits for domestic violence: approximately $209.84 per survivor;
—CAS intake and intervention: $2,276;
—police investigation of domestic violence: $683;
—domestic homicide: approximately $2 million;
—average cost for the legal case for child custody and support: $2,625.
It has been documented that 13% of abused women seek assistance from shelters, while 87% remain in the community and seek assistance from family service and community agencies.
However, with a collaborative response—i.e. the hubs—the successful results of the service model mean that there are more benefits for victims. More women living with domestic violence will seek help due to easier access to services. Women and children dealing with domestic sexual violence will receive timely service because there are no wait-lists. Women and children dealing with domestic sexual violence will receive a coordinated range of services that will address their specific needs. Fewer abused women will return to the abusive situation because they have received increased and more timely interventions.
There are also benefits for partner agencies. There would be a reduction in workload and a more efficient use of their time. There would also be an improved understanding of the range of services available, facilitating appropriate, efficient and timely referrals.
There are also benefits for the community. Other community agencies will save time through the use of a one-access point for referrals. Other community members, in addition to survivors, will have greater knowledge of the services available and how to access them. The cost to the public related to domestic violence can be reduced through the use of the collaborative model. Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our first questions for you are from our Liberal caucus.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: Thank you very much for being here today and thank you for your work in the communities that you’re serving through your hubs. I’m really pleased to be able to be here today and hear your deputation. I thank you for your commitment.
One of the things that I would love to have a little bit more feedback on is what we should be doing to offer assistance to individuals who are not likely to report. That’s something that does concern me, and I would very much appreciate learning a little bit more from your perspective.
Ms. Julia Manuel: I can tell you that, from my experience with our model, we have sort of reduced the barriers to some degree for women to report because they can access services without having to report to police. That is the biggest fear, because a lot of survivors want the abuse to stop; they don’t necessarily want their partner arrested. So they do have the opportunity, through the various hubs, to come in and access those services, whether it’s safety planning, leaving the relationship in a safe manner or legal services, without having to make that report to the police, which reduces the barriers to women reporting.
However, in saying that, there is the mandatory referral with the domestic violence to family and children’s services if children are present in the home. But with a hub, they will have somebody to walk them through that process and support them throughout the whole process.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our next question for you is from our PC caucus.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much for being here. It was a wonderful presentation. It sounds like a very positive and practical model. I’ve got two questions. Are there any studies that you’re aware of or that are under way showing a difference or a comparison between the hub model that is in use with yourselves and people who go through the non-collaborative approach? Are there any academic studies or anybody who is looking at the outcomes from those different experiences?
I also wanted to ask—we know that there’s a pilot project going on here in parts of the GTA as far as combining family courts in different courts, so we don’t have that information-sharing slide that you put up there of having to speak to multiple different crowns and multiple different courts. I was just wondering if you have any experience on that merged-courts system and if you’ve got anything that you can share with the committee on that.
Ms. Rubaiyat Karim: I’ll address your first question, which is about the studies that are available. Currently, the seven hubs that we listed are in the process of doing an evaluation across the seven sites, trying to get an understanding of what the system is like when a person doesn’t have access to integrated supports and then what it is like when they do have access to integrated supports.
That study that we are currently engaged in will look at a lot of feedback from service users and service providers, because we know there is a benefit to service providers as well. So the organizations that receive funding as non-profit organizations to provide services are able to do a more effective job, as we outlined, but individuals who are in the community are able to have better access to that resource.
There are a lot of studies done in the United States, because this is a model that has been around for 10 years. There aren’t as many, but there are studies available—and, in fact, one in the GTA that was done by—I can’t recall now, but there was a study that was developed looking at community hubs in general. That essentially looked at the cost-saving aspect and the integration aspect, but we are specifically looking at domestic and sexual violence outcomes. So it will be a bit different and it will draw on that as part of the larger review. So we’re happy to share that.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our final question for you is from our NDP caucus.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you very much for your presentation and the work that you do on behalf of our province and our communities.
Interesting point through the framework for action—I think we’re all well familiar with the crisis that is missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada; the federal government has been reluctant to launch a national inquiry on that specifically. I see that, through your framework, you use the findings of various inquests that have happened. I want to know how you use the information you obtain through the inquest to further your knowledge and the services you deliver through your association and your group.
Ms. Rubaiyat Karim: The recommendations generally are very specific to sectors. We generally tend to use those inquest recommendations specific to those sectors. For example, I’ll talk very specifically about the last inquest, which is the Nasrin Toreihi inquest. That was done locally in York region. That was the murder of a woman that happened in 2011.
We took those recommendations directly to the police and took the recommendations to the children’s aid society. They have, in fact, implemented a lot of the recommendations. We recognize that when we are not talking to one another as sectors, we are not informed about the full scale of what is happening in the home. The police were aware of certain significant incidents; CAS wasn’t aware of certain incidents.
Putting that story together is immensely beneficial to the victim, because they don’t have to repeat that story. They’re able to go for service, and regardless of who is at the table, they’re able to get the support and service that they need.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. I’ve had a request, too, that if you have any worthwhile studies you would like to pass on to our committee, please do so. You have our email address. You can pass those along electronically, or if you have hard copies, that would be acceptable, too. Thank you very much.
Ms. Rubaiyat Karim: Wonderful. Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I invite you to join our audience now, if you wish.
Ms. Penny Fisher
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I will call on our final presenter this morning. Penny Fisher, please come forward. Make yourself comfortable. You have 15 minutes to address our committee. That will be followed by questions by our caucus members. Please start by stating your name and if you are with an organization.
Ms. Penny Fisher: My name is Penny Fisher.
Good morning, honourable committee members. This is my second visit to the Legislature. My first was on April 21, 2010, when I received the Attorney General’s Victim Services Award of Distinction. It was also the last day I spent with my youngest children, 1,839 days ago, so I respectfully ask for your patience with me as I regale my story to you. Being here is a huge trigger for me, and it has cost me my health.
We met at university. He was good-looking, charming, inviting and helpful. He worked two jobs to pay his way through school. He seemed to share my thoughts, feelings and values. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me. He wanted to spend every minute with me and, within a matter of weeks, said he was in love with me and wanted children with me. In less than four months, he proposed marriage.
It all seemed perfect until a month before the wedding. He quit his job without any real explanation. He began to destroy wedding presents and valuables. I tried to call off the wedding. I adamantly refused to live with the violent rage that was familiar throughout my childhood.
He said he was sorry and that it would never happen again. He told me that as long as he didn’t hit me, it wasn’t physical abuse; therefore, I had nothing to worry about. I believed in him.
A few weeks later, after the wedding, my grandmother, who raised me, died. He accused me of allowing her to rule my life from the grave. He began to punch holes in the walls and doors and break windows of our rental units, blaming me for making him pissed off. He wasn’t as materialistic as me, and if he didn’t hit me, it wasn’t physical abuse.
He claimed it was easy to soothe him, but he never took responsibility for his blowouts. I thought his problem with his anger was his, not mine—my mistake.
With his constant excuses, refusing to work from the beginning, the full responsibility for financials fell on me. He convinced me, against my convictions, to apply for credit cards, which he kept on his person to pay for rent, claiming that credit was income. When I asked to see the amounts, he would ask, “Aren’t you supposed to trust your husband?” He spent the money according to his whims, and I had to ask for his approval and account for every cent. Thus began my enslavement to fund his free life.
He isolated me from my education, claiming we couldn’t afford it. Within a year, my education fund was gone on purchases he later destroyed. Isolation from my friends and family continued by destroying a room, not taking responsibility and saying, “Let’s not have anyone over. The place doesn’t look so good.” If I didn’t fix it, it wouldn’t get done.
By the time our first child was born, he was my only visitor during my week-long hospital stay.
If I didn’t work, we didn’t eat, and I returned full-time to work when the baby was two weeks old.
No one was allowed in the home without his prior permission.
There were instances of direct physical abuse early on to myself and to the children, but he was never charged. He had a gift of saying whatever convinced me that I didn’t see what I saw or hold him accountable.
The more I gave, the more he took. Our lives became more and more about him. He preyed on my weaknesses and turned my strengths against me. The FOG tactics were so thick I couldn’t see what was in front of me. By “FOG” I mean an acronym: fear, obligation and guilt—powerful motivators. I felt obliged to do everything I could; I feared being a single parent. Whatever I did or said or didn’t say was criticized. I became super mom to four children and a grown man, and I felt as if I was going crazy.
It didn’t get better, as he promised; it only ever got worse. I became possessed in the mind and as an object. He kept telling me that should I decide to leave him, he would give me my freedom, as if it was his to give.
When the blinders came off, I awoke to a living nightmare. I realized how low we had sunk, and I said, “No more.” I learned that healthy love is about time, care, protection and respect—never about power and control. I began to tell others of his behaviour only to discover that no one believed me.
I began working on me, receiving more of an education than I ever cared to, and I set and enforced boundaries and expectations. The truth was I had been a single mom throughout the marriage. Destroying property was physical abuse because it uses a body to intimidate and control.
His version of trust was blind faith. His truth was a lie. Communication was do as he says. Co-operation was equal to, but not less than, obeying him in everything. After all, didn’t I want him to tell me that he loved me?
When I refused to back down, he filed legal separation papers accusing me of abusing him, seeking sole custody and spousal support, involving our children in the process. He insisted I have two more children with him; four wasn’t enough. Having more children meant so much to him.
The children began to forget their past and see him as super dad. He undermined my parental authority, creating an atmosphere of no rules or consequences. I watched myself cease to exist in front of all our beautiful children. I, who was mom and caregiver, became Penny, some choice words I won’t repeat and then a non-entity who deserved to be physically assaulted by the children in a sick attempt to divide and conquer.
He reneged on his agreement to the judge to move out, and it didn’t matter what our marital status was I must always care for him under the same roof and appear to the outside world as if we were still a happy family so he would never have to work a day. It was not over until he said so. And of course, it was my attitude that needed changing. The children were taught hatred and entitlement.
I began to have dreams of hurting him just to get away. The police in the sexual assault and domestic violence unit urged safety planning and offered a 911 cell phone. I rejected the legal advice I was given to get him to hit me in front of the children because the courts want to see blood. Getting to a shelter safely was impossible, and I felt overwhelmingly trapped and entertained suicidal thoughts.
Efforts to get emergency custody before leaving were thwarted by incompetent legal advice. When I ran out of time, I was forced to choose between my four children. It was too risky to leave with my older two safely, and it broke my heart to leave them behind.
I arranged for police protection during the move, and to my horror, our son was at the house when my friends, the police and I descended. I begged my son for time. He helped me move and hugged me before I left—the first hug in months, and it would be his last.
I volunteered my forwarding address to police. Within 24 hours, two police officers were at my new door with an emergency order to remove the youngest children from the house, by force if necessary. Later in court, the judge asked me the worst question she could have asked me: “What do you want?” No one had ever asked me that question before, and I didn’t know how to answer. So under extreme duress, I forfeited temporary interim custody. I soon learned that “temporary” does not mean temporary.
Fast forward: It was documented that the children’s voices were not their own. They were under tremendous emotional stress and pressure. Here’s the photographic evidence of that pressure that I have given to you. When is this ever appropriate? I honestly do not understand how people who claim to have the best interests of the children as a priority see these, do nothing, and walk away. To be forced to sit on the sidelines—to be unheard while watching the children suffer—is a form of mental torture.
I’ve lost track of all the number of things I’ve been accused of, but claims are not truth. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve done everything and more that the authorities have asked me to. It’s not enough.
My questions are: What is enough? Some of the questions I haven’t heard are: When was the last time the children spent time with their mom? Why not? What conditions are the children living in? Why does not one authority know? Why are they allowed to remain with unresolved feelings of anger, hatred, grief and loss? Why haven’t they received the counselling the court ordered? Courts ensure children of convicted criminals get to see their parents.
It’s not just me. They were isolated from everyone associated with me, including their own sister. If I was as bad as claimed, why would it be necessary to intercept the children’s mail, to limit my contact with the schools, to keep us apart year after year, monitor and block their social media, keep them from court-ordered counselling, and why their sister, their friends and their family?
I come from a family of police officers. I was raised to believe that if you do what you’re supposed to, if you follow the law and tell the truth, you have nothing to worry about. Experience has taught me the opposite is true. The roles of victim and abuser are reversed. Abusers get support and victims get consequences. It’s like living in Alice in Wonderland, where things seem familiar but nothing makes sense, where good is bad and bad is good.
The system urges victims to leave; it’s easier said than done. However unbelievable my story may seem, mine is far from unique. On average, it takes seven to 11 times to leave for good. Authorities say that there are systems in place to help. Yes, there are. It’s wonderful when they work, but they don’t.
In 2011, the US Department of Justice published Dr. Daniel Saunders’s study, including Canadian experts, about the training of judges, lawyers and evaluators in DV and found that the court professionals do not have the training and needed expertise to respond appropriately, providing a false sense of competence so that they rarely seek the assistance from DV experts and were ignored or minimized in the evaluation. Evaluators gave too much weight to survivors’ mental health or alleged mental health symptoms.
Parental alienation is a severe form of psychological child abuse. It is a form of domestic violence towards both the targeted parent and the child using the love between them to inflict intense and severe suffering, to hide behind the child while hurting and/or destroying the other parent.
Abuse is a mentality; it’s power and control, not gender. All DV begins with psychological and emotional abuse. Both men and women abuse; both alienate children to continue to control and exert power over a spouse.
Alienation dates back thousands of years. In Euripides’s Medea, Medea brags to her husband, Jason, “I have killed our sons because I loathed you more than I loved them.”
Patriarchal laws have condoned alienating fathers’ behaviours because women and children were the property of men. Only recently, after women were given the vote and women’s and children’s rights were recognized, has alienation been documented through the courts differently.
What happens to victims of DV also happens to victims of alienation. Both come under the influence of the abuser. In alienation, the children can literally change overnight. Many parents have described this like an “alien abduction.” The child looks and sounds the same, but it’s not them. The child can appear quite normal except when confronted by their feelings for the targeted parent. To an untrained professional, the PAS behaviour also can be mistaken.
In her book the Cult of Parenthood, by Dr. Amy Baker, survivors of alienation described their parents much in the same terms as cult leaders. I’ve given you copies of these, at the back, as the supporting materials. The alienating parent is the leader, the child is the member and the targeted parent becomes evil, a defector, or simply the enemy.
Belonging is a powerful motivator the AP uses to full advantage. Children not strong enough to stand against the pressure succumb to traumatic bonding or Stockholm Syndrome. Who they were prior to the alienation is buried deep down inside. Children profess hatred for a previously loved parent and an obsessive love for the alienating parent. There is no ambivalence. It’s easier for a child to do bad things to a parent they believe they hate than a loving parent. It’s what he or she has to do in order to survive—a child soldier of a different war.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Ms. Fisher, you have one minute left.
Ms. Penny Fisher: I appreciate it, thank you.
I will not make any recommendations to this committee. Recommendations are only suggestions that are too often ignored. What I expect is action. Include alienation in DV legislation. Make alienation part of the Criminal Code, commensurate with those governing other forms of severe child abuse and domestic violence. Ensure courts are accountable to their own orders for custody, access and counselling. Use Dr. Craig Childress’s attachment-based parental alienation model and the DSM-5, 2013, in children’s treatments.
Time is my worst enemy and my friend. Julie Craven, one of my co-recipients for the same award in 2010, gave me sage advice: “There’s only hope for the children as long as you’re alive.” I do my best—the best I can, as I can. I owe so much to my friends, my church, my counsellors and to my rediscovered family for all the support, love and forgiveness they have shown me.
It has been five years for my youngest children and twice that for my son. How many milestones does a child have in that time? Time has been stolen from them. If our children were here, I would tell them, “I love you so very much. You are in my heart. I want you. I’m so sorry that I was not able to understand and give you what you needed when you needed it. Please forgive me. I will never give up on you. I have no angry feelings towards you. You always have a home with me. You have a right to love both parents. You have a right to love and be loved. You have a right to a childhood. Be the person you know you are in your heart. Be the example of what you do want. Love trumps hatred, and when our hearts are together, we are in the same place.
“I am with you always,
Thank you for listening.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our first question for you, if you would like a quick question, is MPP Scott.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Thank you. I wanted to give you the time to finish. First of all, thank you for your bravery in coming forward. It’s a very heart-wrenching story that you’ve presented.
The resources that, I guess, didn’t exist there or might be better now, when you went through this painful event—what do you think that we could have done better so that the resources out there—you mentioned some changes in the law, but just what resources, quickly, if you could answer?
Ms. Penny Fisher: Integration between the services.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Okay, so similar to what we maybe heard before.
Ms. Penny Fisher: There are a lot of agencies who do not talk to one another. I have found—I didn’t quite get to it in my speech—that internal politics, money and personal agendas take priority over the best interests of the children. It has to be done in the children’s time. Time is much different for children than it is for an adult. Childhood happens once, and we have to do it on their time. A year makes a huge difference in a child’s life.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Okay. Thank you very much.
Ms. Penny Fisher: Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Our next question for you is from our NDP caucus.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you for coming and sharing that very difficult story. I really appreciate your personal perspective in understanding these issues.
You’ve obviously done research on parental alienation. The incidence of parental alienation—how frequently is it associated with domestic violence or family violence? Do they usually co-occur?
Ms. Penny Fisher: Yes, they do, because it’s a way of continuing the control. There’s a quote that I have from Dr. Childress, who is a court expert witness—another leading expert—“seen this pattern with males as the alienating parent (perhaps because of the higher prevalence for males to display narcissistic and antisocial personality traits), with mothers ... being the recipient of the child’s (teenager’s) excessive violence and threats ... associated with a history of pre-divorce domestic violence qualities within the family involving control, dominance, and verbal/emotional abuse from the narcissistic ... antisocial parent (husband) toward,” in this case, the wife. They warrant a child protection response.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our final question for you is from our Liberal caucus.
Ms. Soo Wong: Ms. Fisher, thank you so much for being here today and sharing your story. I think every member who is here today felt your pain. I just wanted to say that.
You mentioned some pieces about alienation being put into the Criminal Code. Do you know which provinces in Canada have this in their Criminal Code in terms of working with the federal government?
Ms. Penny Fisher: None.
Ms. Soo Wong: None. Okay.
And then my last question here is, are there any agencies in Ontario that focus on specifically the parental alienation that you talked so passionately about?
Ms. Penny Fisher: Thank you, yes. Robert Samery, who came with me this morning, is the vice-president of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization.
Ms. Soo Wong: Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much, Ms. Fisher.
To our committee: This concludes our hearings for this morning. We stand adjourned until we reconvene this afternoon. Thank you very much.
The committee recessed from 1016 to 1530.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Good afternoon, everyone. The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment will now come to order. I’d like to welcome all the presenters who are with us here this afternoon, along with guests who may be sitting in the audience.
Let me quickly share with you the mandate of this committee. We’re here to listen to the experiences of survivors, front-line workers, advocates and experts on the issue of sexual violence and harassment. You are going to inform us on how to shift social norms and barriers that are preventing people from coming forward to report abuses.
However, I do want to stress that we do not have the power or the authority to investigate individual cases. That is better left to the legal authorities.
Canadian Women’s Foundation
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Welcome to our first presenters today. I would ask that you begin by stating your names and the group that you are with. Begin any time.
Ms. Anu Dugal: Good afternoon, Madam Chair, and members of the committee. My name is Anu Dugal and I am the director of violence prevention at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. I’m here today with my colleague Barbara Gosse, who is the senior director of policy research and innovation. I’d like to thank the committee for undertaking this important work and for offering us this opportunity to contribute to your consultations.
We’re here today to share our experience and recommendations in four key areas: overcoming barriers that prevent women—individuals—from reporting sexual abuse; the need for collective action rather than individual, siloed programs; preventing sexual harassment and violence through youth-targeted education programs; and the need for a provincial framework based on gender equality.
By way of background, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is Canada’s largest public foundation supporting women and girls. Our mission is to empower women and girls across Canada to move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence. We take a systemic approach, looking at root causes on the most critical issues facing women and girls in Canada, and we select and fund the programs that show the strongest outcomes and regularly evaluate this work.
Since 1991, we’ve invested over $40 million in 1,300 community programs across the country. In the province of Ontario specifically, our investment in 2014 was over $665,000 to violence prevention programs, which includes supporting the VAW—violence against women—shelters across the province, and also healthy relationships programs which teach boys and girls how to stop the violence for good.
Since the inception of our innovative Girls’ Fund in 2006, we have been supporting cutting-edge programming for girls and increased our financial contributions eight times over, from just $200,000 in 2006 to a current annual investment of $2 million.
In the last two years, we invested more than $350,000 to support pioneering work to prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and help those who have escaped it rebuild their lives. We are also currently working with Ontario stakeholders to create action plans that not only seek to end this terrible crime, but also propose integrated and coordinated responses for key service providers.
We have 25 years of experience working with key stakeholders on violence prevention programs and policy development, and so we feel we can offer a comprehensive perspective on preventing sexual violence and harassment.
First of all, talking about barriers that women face when it comes to reporting harassment and assault: Our experience and data show that women do not come forward because they fear they will not be believed. There is also a clear lack of trust in positive outcomes when it comes to reporting sexual abuse.
We did a survey in 2013, commissioned with Angus Reid, where we heard that 10% of women would expect to resolve physical or sexual abuse by themselves. This same survey showed that women were not confident that their HR department at work would believe them; that was close to half—43%. Some 31% believed that the financial toll of a legal process would likely damage their family in particular, and they did not want their friends or family to know about an abusive situation. So 31% told us that reporting it to the police would likely be prevented because of this effect it would have on their family, friends and colleagues.
Our first recommendation is that the province of Ontario encourage trust with the police and the justice system to ensure that women are not revictimized. Victims of sexual assault often feel pressured to charge the accused within a very short period of time. For example, Ontario hospitals store sexual assault kits, rape kits, for up to six months to give survivors a chance to make a decision whether they want to lay charges or not. We think that by working with survivors directly, we can make this system more responsive and victim-centered so that it will incentivize them to come forward. We’ve heard that the dynamics within the justice system are what’s stopping women from coming forward.
First of all, women’s treatment within the justice system is often based on whether she’s perceived as a good victim or not or whether her case will sound good in court. Somebody who projects a calm, reasonable demeanour and suppresses her anger or her pain during the legal process is more likely to be seen positively by police and the legal system. She’s usually required to tell her story within a very prescribed set—she’s instructed how to tell her story and encouraged not to express any emotion while she does this. So she is essentially being revictimized by this process: The process happens to her, as the assault happened to her. Therefore we think that additional resources are required so that law enforcement can build more victim-centered approaches.
Our second recommendation is on the training of judges hearing sexual violence and harassment cases. The Ontario action plan specifically addresses education awareness and training for crown attorneys and for police when it comes to sexual assault and harassment. We support this. We think that education and awareness are key to building trust and respectful relationships. However, there is no mention in the plan of the additional training for judges. We believe this is critical because change cannot come about without every member of the legal system having a greater understanding of the victim impact from those who have been sexually abused or who have experienced violence or harassment.
Our third recommendation is that the province of Ontario close the door on access to personal records of the victim in cases of sexual assault. Disclosure of personal records from interveners such as psychiatrists, psychologists, rape crisis and sexual assault centres, abortion clinics and child welfare agencies are currently allowed, and we do not believe this should happen. In the examination of sexual assault cases, it has been found that the practice of requesting these records has actually become standard. Although these are technically available for all criminal trials, they are used almost exclusively in sexual assault cases to create an atmosphere of doubt about the victim’s testimony, give the appearance of faulty memories, giving the idea that she has a motive to lie. These have consistently contributed to the erosion of protections for sexual assault complaints.
These personal records, we feel, should not be admissible, in a similar way that an examination of the sexual history of the victim is not admissible at this time.
Our fourth recommendation is that the province of Ontario provide additional funding for more inclusive and culturally sensitive supports. Because we support programs at the Canadian Women’s Foundation that are focused on the needs of survivors, first and foremost, we hear from many survivors whose specific circumstances have been shaped in their experience. For example, aboriginal women who are generally not considered good victims in the eyes of authorities because they do not always conform to what the law requires of them; disabled women in Toronto who won’t come forward because they believe that making a complaint will actually make the abuse worse; rural women in Muskoka or in Chatham-Kent who don’t have access to services because they’re at a distance from the main population centres; trans women who do not want to reveal their identity because of the transphobia they might experience; and women who’ve been trafficked, who are often pushed out of group settings or support services because of the incorrect perception that they were complicit in prostitution.
The action plan recognizes the need for inclusiveness, and there was a clear signal that this matter is non-partisan and affects everyone in the province. However, the work needs to be centered on the needs of the victim, and this requires additional resources.
These additional supports often require additional funds. At Canadian Women’s Foundation we look for programs that will build these supports into the existing programs. We supported a project, for example, with Community Living Toronto, that creates a program for women with developmental difficulties so that they can discuss concepts such as consent, assault, boundaries and healthy relationships. This program is now poised to be a train-the-trainer model that will be expanded to Community Living all across Canada. The same for women in remote and rural areas: They’re very vulnerable because of the lack of emergency supports and follow-up services in smaller communities.
One of the ways the Canadian Women’s Foundation addresses these gaps is by offering additional resources and funds that increase access. So the model might include paying for travel and transportation in remote areas. It might include offering interpretation or support for disabled women in programs. It may include language accessibility for newcomers.
Recommendation 5 is that the province of Ontario encourage collaboration among service providers. Often we see that there is a co-existence of mental health issues, substance use and violence that is a barrier to coming forward, and also in the ways in which women can get help. For example, a woman would go to a shelter and not be able to have access to all her drugs at all times, if she’s suffering from depression, anxiety or self-harm, which is often an ongoing case. After experiencing violence, women are vulnerable to those things. On the flip side, if she does have substance use issues she may get a detox bed, but her children can’t accompany her through that process. Her children are then in care.
It’s important to fund collective action to try and develop ways in which these organizations can work together in the best interests of women and their families, and support victims when they identify themselves.
There are also some very interesting projects you may have already heard about in Ottawa where local businesses such as pubs and bars are engaged in preventing sexual assault by using a bystander approach. So when they see something happening in a community setting, they will step in and try and stop that assault from happening. We find that these programs have made women feel safer in those communities.
Now, just to move on, we’d like to talk about how we can use primary prevention to prevent harassment and assault through youth programs. The Ontario sexual assault and harassment action plan uses this three-pronged approach—change attitudes, support survivors and enhance safety—and we believe that this will have impact. We support the approach. But in order to change attitudes and enhance safety, we believe that primary prevention is the key. This can really be the only way to stop sexual assault and harassment from happening, and that is by working with youth directly.
Young people are at the greatest risk of sexual assault, according to StatsCan 66% of female victims of sexual assault are under 24, and 11% are under 11. I just want to stop there, because that is a horrifying stat when you think about why people question that we need sex education in grade schools.
We know that Canadians have incorrect and problematic ideas about the root causes of sexual abuse. We’ve undertaken a number of surveys about this. There is the belief that women are still responsible for the sexual assault they receive because of their appearance, of their actions, and this makes abused women stay silent and often feel responsible for what happened to them.
We must stop this questioning, and address the root causes as to why men rape women. By engaging men early on and encouraging them to take an active role in stopping the violence they see, we can harness additional power to stop violence against women.
Our sixth recommendation and one that is well under way—and we support it wholeheartedly—is that the province of Ontario offer more universal programs in schools and communities to deal with sexual assault and harassment. We’ve funded them at the Canadian Women’s Foundation for over 15 years. They include talking about the signs of abuse, behaviours that help create healthy relationships, consent, anti-oppression approaches etc.
I’ll just give you a couple of stats on this: 83% of the teens who participated in the violence prevention programs we funded said that they learned how to recognize an abusive relationship and know what to do if they themselves or someone they know is being abused; and 92% have a better understanding of what a healthy relationship with another person looks like—respect, effective communication, problem-solving, healthy boundaries. These programs are working, but there is still more work to be done.
We know from our research that while the vast majority of Canadians—96%—agree that sexual activity should be consensual, two thirds do not actually understand what it means to give consent.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): You have one minute left in your presentation.
Ms. Anu Dugal: Thank you very much.
Our final recommendation is that a provincial framework for gender equality be implemented, complete with oversight by the Premier. The Premier has rightly noted that misogyny underpins the sexual violence and harassment that all women in Ontario experience, and we could not agree more. Gender equality is both a cause and a result of violence. Without women’s equality, we will never end violence in the province of Ontario.
We agree that gender equality needs to be reflected in every aspect of how our society operates. The overarching principle is that everybody has the right to work and support ourselves, and gender equality implies not only equal distribution between men and women in all domains of society, but ensuring that the knowledge and experience of both men and women are used to promote progress.
We would like to see special attention paid to this area, such as a provincial office of women’s equality, such as exists in the province of New Brunswick. We would also suggest more investigation into a minister responsible for gender equality or perhaps a gender equality ombudsman.
Tracking data over time and monitoring trends can help support everybody who is designing and implementing programs to better evaluate their programs, and this data could be used also to inform requests for funding.
We really support the gender equality framework that is cross-cutting in government and is set up within a supported framework to make a difference to all Ontarians in assisting the end of sexual assault and harassment.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. Just a reminder to our committee members that we’ve gone to a shorter format, so we have a total of five minutes for all our questioning. I encourage all MPPs to be very concise with your questions.
We begin with our NDP caucus.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you very much for that great presentation and those very concise and clear recommendations. That’s very helpful to the committee.
On page 2, your first recommendation talks about not pressuring women to lay charges in a short period of time, and it used the example of rape kits being stored for up to six months. Is it your view that six months is an appropriate window? When you’re looking at the time frame for charges being laid, what would you recommend?
Ms. Anu Dugal: Most women are going through a healing process for up to a year after a sexual assault or any kind of abuse. Although they may be ready after six months, certainly after a year they are much more likely to be able to go through a reporting process that requires them to have an emotional distance from the abuse they experienced.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: So the kits should be kept longer?
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our next question is from our Liberal caucus—
Ms. Barbara Gosse: One year.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I’m sorry; I’ve got to stay on schedule because we have so many people this afternoon. Our Liberal caucus?
Ms. Harinder Malhi: Thank you again for your presentation. I know that you have a seat at the VAW table with Minister MacCharles.
Ms. Anu Dugal: That’s right.
Ms. Harinder Malhi: I just wanted to ask you a little bit more about what you think of the It’s Never Okay action plan.
Ms. Anu Dugal: The action plan, we think, is excellent. We do think it would be much more effective with the cross-cutting, gender equality approach that goes all the way through government, which would make the impacts a lot higher. I don’t know if you want to add something to that.
Ms. Barbara Gosse: Some of our recommendations here today speak to that as well, in terms of making sure that judges are trained. All of the judiciary and all of law enforcement needs to be trained because women will be going through that system, so that’s very important. But generally it’s a positive action plan with accountability measures, and we see that as really, really moving forward in a good direction.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our final questions for you are from our PC caucus.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you for your excellent presentation. I know you touched on it lightly here about human trafficking. I’ve been working on that issue. I know you issued a report in 2014. Where do you think an increase in funding could best serve as an investment to putting an end to human trafficking in Ontario? You talk a lot about the cost in lost opportunities in the province. I’ll just let you go, because we don’t have much time.
Ms. Barbara Gosse: Thank you. I think, first and foremost, that public awareness and education are very, very important. I think a practical application, a framework for doing that in Ontario, would be good. We are following through with stakeholders now. We’ve just finished an Ontario regional round table with a number of different stakeholders from 17 different agencies. But there needs to be a lot more investment in that and there needs to be investment in looking at how data is collected across stakeholders as well.
We don’t have any national data collection mechanism now. We need to look at how we do that and how we’re speaking the same language when you’re talking about trafficking, and supporting survivors as well.
We also need to look at how we can create community plans to increase awareness through schools because we found that the age of most victims is around 14. We’ve just recently heard from law enforcement that 11-year-olds have been found as well. It’s an abhorrent, awful evil that exists, and more needs to be done.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I thank you very much for coming and speaking to our committee today. I invite you to join our audience, if you wish to, to take in the rest of the presentations.
Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I’ll now call on the Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre to come forward.
Please have a seat. You will have 15 minutes to speak to our committee, and that will be followed by questions. Begin by telling us your names and start after that. Thank you.
Ms. Esther Enyolu: Okay. My name is Esther Enyolu.
Ms. Atiyya Bacchus: Hi, everyone. My name is Atiyya Bacchus.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): And begin.
Ms. Esther Enyolu: Good afternoon, distinguished and honourable members of the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege to be here this afternoon to make this presentation to the committee. As I mentioned, my name is Esther Enyolu. I am the executive director of the Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham, WMRCC. As the executive director, I report directly to the board of directors, which consists of nine individuals: seven women and two men. I supervise a group of volunteers, student interns and staff who directly deliver services and programs to women, youth and children.
I am here with my colleague, who is also a member of the board of directors of the organization, Ms. Atiyya Bacchus. She will also be doing a presentation.
WMRCC of Durham was established in 1993 as the Women’s Rights Action Coalition of Durham, WRAC. The organization’s name was changed to the Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham in 2003 to effectively reflect the population that the agency provides services to. The organization was established after a needs assessment study by Rahder and associates in Durham region in the early 1990s indicating a lack of service in this area and a need to establish one.
WMRCC of Durham region is a registered charitable organization dedicated to providing specialized counselling and support to women of all ages and their families from diverse backgrounds to eradicate violence, to rebuild their lives and to enable them to become contributing members of society.
Even though it is located in Durham region, we are mandated to also deal with issues in the greater Toronto area. We’ve prepared some statistics on the clients we saw for the past six years who received one-on-one support and counselling from the agency. These are only the statistics for counselling. We also have other programs that women, children and youth participated in. In 2009, we saw 184 clients; in 2010, 172; in 2011, 122—and they are all listed.
We are not presenting to you as experts, but as feminists; community mobilizers; women’s rights activists; advocates for women, youth and children; diversity educators; social justice advocates; and experienced individuals who have been working in the field for many years.
Violence against women and sexual harassment is universal. Even though we are here in Canada dealing with this issue, it is not only unique to Canada or to Ontario. It happens across the nation; it happens all over the world.
Violence against women and the crime of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, cuts across all racial, social, cultural, economic, political and religious backgrounds. We have to look at the role of patriarchy in shaping the social conditions of women and how women and girls are treated in our society. Patriarchy ideology is a form of social organization marked by the supremacy of male power and control, male privilege and exploitation of women based on gender.
I will pass it on to my colleague to continue from here.
Ms. Atiyya Bacchus: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name, as I said before, is Atiyya, and I’m really happy to be here to speak to you about sexual harassment and the importance of talking about this issue.
One of the key things to begin with is to define what exactly sexual harassment is. In the Ontario Human Rights Code, sexual harassment is “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.” To add to this, there’s a specific type of sexual harassment that is called gender-based harassment; this is “any behaviour that polices and reinforces traditional heterosexual gender norms.” These two points are very important in talking about sexual harassment because they are the pivotal points in solving this issue, to understand how we can target this issue and also solve the problems inherent in harassment.
Why do people follow gender-based harassment? It’s often used to reinforce traditional sexual stereotypes, so to perpetuate the idea of dominant males and subservient females. It’s also used as a bullying tactic between members of the same sex.
There are different types of sexual harassment. These include sexual solicitation and advances; a poisoned environment; gender-based harassment, which is targeting someone for not following their sexual stereotypes; and also violence. Violence would be inappropriate sexual behaviour that, if you don’t deal with it, can lead to more serious forms such as sexual assault and other types of violence.
I wanted to bring to your attention a few facts that I found. These facts are from different studies that were conducted across Canada. I think they’re very telling of what the issues are and what we need to focus on. In North America, one in four women will by sexually assaulted in their lifetime; that’s one in four women. Of the sexual abuse and assault victims, 60% of them are under the age of 17. That’s only two years younger than I am, and that’s 60% of the assault victims. Of sex crimes, 80% are perpetrated towards women, and 80% of sexual assault incidents happen at home. The home is where everything is, right? If your home cannot be safe against sexual harassment and sexual assault, where else could you be safe? Some 15% of sexual assault victims are boys under the age of 16, and 83% of disabled women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. In addition to all of these, 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually assaulted, and 80% of assailants are usually friends and family of the victim.
From these statistics, you can get a few generalizations. The first is that sexual assault is far more common than we would suspect in our society. Relatively few incidents of sexual assaults are reported to the police. Young and otherwise vulnerable women are most likely to be sexually abused. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone close to the victim and not a stranger.
Right now, we are in an incredible position to help change this reality to help reduce instances of sexual harassment and assault and to provide resources to people who have been impacted. I realize that these just seem like a collection of numbers and statistics, but this is happening in Canada, in our communities and in our families. This is happening right now.
Last week, there was a lot of publicity on the external review of the Canadian Forces from an investigation that was led by the former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps. It reported a highly sexualized culture in the Canadian Forces that is hostile to women and LGTBQ members. There is a large proportion of incidents of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault in the military that are not reported. In addition, both training and procedures that deal with the aftermath of sexual harassment are ineffective.
I think this example really highlights the widespread nature of sexual harassment. It doesn’t only impact vulnerable community members but also large institutions.
How can we move forward? We need to diminish stigma, to reduce shame and to encourage people to report incidents. We need to promote education, so that people can identify harassment. We also need to have resources that support victims of harassment.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll be handing it over to Esther.
Ms. Esther Enyolu: Thank you. I know we’ve written a lot, and we have so little time to present—
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): You have five more minutes left.
Ms. Esther Enyolu: Okay, good.
Sexual harassment is against the law; it is in the book. I will skip it because you can always read it.
I will go to the next one: Who is affected? The code protects both men and women from sexual harassment, but women are more affected than men. International human rights conventions and Canadian legal decisions have recognized sexual harassment as an abuse of power that can reinforce a woman’s historically lower status compared to men.
Sexual harassment can happen in all social and economic classes, ethnic groups, jobs and places in the community. No place is immune from sexual harassment. A person may be more vulnerable to sexual harassment if they identify by other code grounds, such as race, sexual orientation, disability and so on.
Also, sexual harassment can have a worse effect if it is combined with discrimination or harassment based on other code grounds of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Irrespective of the fact that all women, regardless of race, ethnic and social identity, religion, class, sexual orientation, ability etc., experience violence and sexual harassment, some groups have been identified for being at greater risk.
The impact of residential school experiences and social and economic marginalization of First Nations women put them in vulnerable situation. There are currently more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered First Nations women which have not been solved.
We must reiterate that all women, including lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, transsexuals, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, allies, youth, immigrant and newcomer women, racialized and sex-trade workers, tend to be more vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault.
Coming from a feminist-informed, anti-racist and anti-oppression theoretical framework, we have to put into consideration the impact of trauma in the lives of women and young women. The barrier that some of these women encounter in trying to access community services, the shame associated with the issues they are presenting, including blaming from society for being the cause of what happened to them: Often we hear people making comments like, “If she dresses in such a way, she is asking for it,” or, “Why was she there at that time of the day? Didn’t she know that men are like that?” There should be no excuse for such action. The ethical dilemma is that perpetrators of violence against women should be held accountable for their actions. The victim needs not to be blamed and feel revictimized.
I have accompanied women survivors of sexual assault or sexual harassment to court. The questions those women were asked seemed humiliating. They were made to feel that they triggered the assault. As a result, many women tend to be reluctant to bring forward allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault. In some cases of workplace harassment, women have been asked to bring a witness; if not, she will be targeted at work. Those women often are forced to leave their jobs or the environment for safety.
Schools and campuses remain an environment where girls experience a high incidence of sexual abuse and harassment. In our work at WMRCC of Durham, we have always remained firmly grounded in raising awareness on issues of violence against women and girls. We work on impacting policies, programs and services for women.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): You have one minute left for your presentation.
Ms. Esther Enyolu: This is the time for a paradigm shift. Women have been silenced for a long time. We need to pull resources together to support women and encourage them to bring forward allegations of sexual harassment irrespective of the environment that the incident took place in.
We have put some recommendations in place for the select committee, and we are hoping that you take the recommendations into consideration. WMRCC of Durham will like to put some of these recommendations to the provincial government with the hope that they should be implemented.
(1) Develop status of women committees at universities and colleges to deal with issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment, including complaints of unfair treatment due to gender, race, ability, sexual identity, religion etc.
(2) Establish a task force on sexual assault and sexual harassment;
(3) Re-establish a Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign. In the early 1990s, the Ontario Women’s Directorate used to give to women’s groups a grant of between $1,000 to $2,000 to do public education awareness on sexual harassment. This issue is not going away soon, because every time in the media, we see institutions every day—there is never a day we don’t hear issues of violence and issues of sexual harassment, including in institutions like the military and so on. It is a very serious issue;
(4) Implement special training on issues of violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment for judges, crown attorneys, law enforcement officers, hospitals, schools, universities and colleges in Ontario;
(5) Ensure policies have gender equality, equity and anti-oppression language that includes gender, race, class, sexual orientation etc.;
(6) Harassers need to understand that unconsented sexual advances, touches, comments etc. cannot be tolerated; and
(7) Sexual assault and sexual harassment is a serious crime and must be treated as such. Harassers need to realize that no means no. When a woman or a girl says no, she should be respected.
Thank you so much. On behalf of the board of directors, staff and volunteers, including the women, youth and children who turn to us for support, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon to present to you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Ladies, you went a little bit over, and unfortunately we don’t have time for questions. But if any of the caucus members would like to speak with these ladies directly, I encourage you to do that now.
Thank you very much. If you wish, you can join our audience now and hear our next presenters.
Parental Alienation Awareness Organization
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I would like to call upon the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization to come forward. You will have 15 minutes to address our committee, and that will be followed by questions. Please start by stating your name and continue after that.
Mr. Brian Ludmer: Certainly. My name is Brian Ludmer. I’m obviously a lawyer and I do a lot of work in the area of troubled families, which the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization attempts to assist through education and awareness. I’m an advisory board member of that organization and several other organizations that attempt to assist families in crisis in this way.
Rather than give you a formal prepared presentation—I do enough of those—given that it’s 15 minutes, what I thought I’d do is share with you what this troubled state of affairs is doing currently to parents and to children. I’m going to address not the problems of our current family law system, but what you’re focused on, which is issues of domestic violence or, in some cases, what some people are calling domestic violence by proxy: Using the children to get back at the other parent, an all-too-common occurrence.
What we’ve come to understand is that emotional abuse, emotional harm, psychological manipulation of children can be even more damaging than physical violence. It leaves lasting scars that are unseen. The Toronto Star is running a series this week on mental health issues and mental health issues pertaining to children. We don’t know how much of that is as a result of children being triangulated into their parents’ disputes, but there is no doubt from the professional literature, the anecdotal literature and the therapist communities that it is traumatizing our children. So while the focus of the committee might be on adult-to-adult violence, physical and emotional, the toll on our children is terrible, and our children are tomorrow’s adults. The lifelong scars that these children are suffering during their childhood, because we’re not protecting them from the inter-parent warfare, does leave lasting scars, and these scars are very difficult to heal.
I’m going to come back to the children and the effect, but let’s talk about the parents, because the focus of our family law infrastructure and our family law statutes is on the children. We don’t even have a constitutional right to parent in Canada, the way, to some extent, they do in the United States. Our Supreme Court, in some leading jurisprudence, has said that it’s all about the best interests of the children and not the rights of the parents. Given that infrastructure, we have an all-too-common occurrence of one parent getting back at the other parent for perceived slights during the marriage through the children, and we don’t get enough, in the reported literature, of what that is doing to the parents because our jurisprudence, and most of the work on troubled families, is focused on the children—and rightly so.
But let’s think about what this is doing to the parents. Ask anyone who’s gone through a difficult divorce whether they’ve been able to concentrate on their job during the many years that that takes, whether they’ve been the best parent they can be while they’re going through that, whether they’re the best friend they can be, whether they’re the best new partner they can be. They can’t be because they’re undergoing trauma in its worst sense. It’s probably impossible to quantify the impact on our economy. Our statistics are similar to the those in the United States in that north of 40% of marriages won’t make it, and other relationships that don’t result in marriage, I’m sure, have similar stats, maybe even higher stats. So if they don’t end well, and many times they don’t end well, you’re going to get this sort of trauma going on with the children used as pawns—
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Ludmer, I just want to interrupt here. I’d like to remind you of the mandate of this committee. We’re examining sexual violence and sexual harassment. We hear you talking about child custody issues and the kind of trauma that children sometimes experience when there is a dispute between parents. So can you and are you able to speak directly to our mandate, which is sexual violence and sexual harassment? Thank you.
Mr. Brian Ludmer: If it’s limited to sexual, I guess the issue becomes one of false allegations, as opposed to the real allegations. The mandate of this organization, of course, is to speak to awareness of this type of psychological trauma, and if the committee is only going to examine physical—is it within the mandate of the committee to examine physical violence that’s non-sexual?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: No.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): No—
Mr. Brian Ludmer: Just strictly sexual?
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: Sexual violence and harassment.
Mr. Brian Ludmer: And harassment? Okay. Well, let me address the harassment part.
Harassment without a sexual connotation clearly is encompassed within the mandate of PAAO, because that’s what’s happening. There is no peace, in that sense. You are constantly being reminded of the other person’s intrusion into your life by what it is that they’re doing to your own relationship with your own children. And it is a particularly cruel type of harassment because of the daily reminders, both in terms of how the children are acting toward you and also what you’re missing out on because of the total exclusion. So, for example, you’ll find that all third parties are told that you’re not part of the child’s life, and everywhere you go, you’re not welcome. They have no record of you. You can’t get information. So you’re reminded on a daily basis that you’re a non-person, and your former partner, your co-parent, is the one doing this to you, and there’s some sort of perverse pleasure in all these things. We see the same things being done every time—attempting to change the child’s name, denying you information. You are unwelcome everywhere. You show up at an event where your children are going to be and it’s quite clear that they’ve gone ahead and everybody has been either poisoned against you or there are rumours about you or that you’re not involved in your child’s life. The first assumption is that you’re not a good person and you’re not a good parent because why wouldn’t a child have a relationship with a good parent?
It is psychological warfare of the worst part. It’s harassment that you feel 24 hours a day even through the loss of what you had before. It’s a particularly cruel type of dominance and control. You can’t even grieve the loss of your child because your child is still alive; you’re just excluded. It does manifest itself in all the ways I’ve described, including showing up at school and there’s an assignment on the wall and your child has the last name of your former spouse’s new partner. That hurts. This does induce a particularly difficult sort of trauma on parents going through this. It’s hard to imagine a more cruel or pervasive type of harassment than getting back at someone through the children.
In anybody’s books, that sort of emotional abuse and inflicting that sort of trauma is as violent as any pure physical act. When you study the neuroscience and what’s happening in the brain, that sort of repeated emotional trauma does produce physical changes in the brain. We now understand that repeated emotional abuse of this sort is actually a physical injury because our brains are fairly plastic right through our lives. There’s a direct correlation. It doesn’t sound like it until you see this with your own eyes, but I deal with clients every day who are despondent, crushed shells of the person that they used to be. It’s hard to imagine a more vicious sort of harassment than to deprive someone of their child in this way.
To the extent that the committee is looking at our legislative infrastructure in whatever statute might touch on these issues, not just family legislation but others, this is something that merits consideration. I’ll turn it over to you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our first question for you is from our Liberal caucus. MPP McGarry?
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: Thank you. I’m needing to bring it back to our mandate of sexual violence and harassment.
Mr. Brian Ludmer: Sure.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: In your opinion, does this emotional trauma in childhood become a root cause of sexual violence later on in life, a predictor of that?
Mr. Brian Ludmer: The psychological literature—we do have some true mental health experts here—does show that there’s an intergenerational transmission of this sort of trauma. If you are yourself a victim of this sort of abuse, then it becomes normal—a normal way one reacts to things—and so it does get perpetuated intergenerationally. We see people going through this and then they do it to their own children or they do it to their spouse as well. That’s fairly well established in the literature.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. Our next questions for you are from our PC caucus.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thanks for being here—interesting subjects that you’re raising now. Again, we need to focus on the mandate of this committee, but all the evidence that we’ve seen and heard, that I’ve seen and heard, gives credence that those engaged in sexual assault or sexual violence and domestic assaults today were also subject to trauma or similar circumstances in their youth. I think that’s the important part, here, of what you bring to the table.
The experience that you’ve had dealing with parental alienation: How much of that would be involved with sexual assault or domestic assault specifically? In the cases of children alienated from parents has one parent or the other either been assaulted or had allegations of assault? Is that in most cases or some cases or a preponderance of cases?
Mr. Brian Ludmer: There is a body of literature on the intergenerational transmission of trauma that would suggest that a parent capable of doing this—using a child as a pawn in this way and enmeshing themselves with the child—was themselves sexually abused at some point in their childhood. It devalues relationships that are meant to be lifetime. It is the ultimate breach of trust, of course. Somewhere—either in the immediate generation or one generation back—there’s a body of mental health literature out there that suggests the intergenerational transmission of trauma with a historical root in sexual violence of some sort. I can’t really speak to it more than that, but a lot of the mental health practitioners that I deal with seem to subscribe to that view.
What we do know, to your point, is that tomorrow’s perpetrators of “name the crime” are today’s traumatized children, for various reasons.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. The final question for you is from our NDP caucus.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: We’re passing.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. We invite you to join our audience, if you wish to.
Dr. Sol Goldstein
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I will call on our next presenter this afternoon. Sol Goldstein, could you please come forward? You’ll have 15 minutes to address our committee, and that will be followed by questions for you. Please start by stating your name, and begin any time after that.
Dr. Sol Goldstein: My name is Sol Goldstein. I’ll take the liberty at this stage to give you my credentials in that I’m an adult and child psychoanalyst, psychotherapist and psychiatrist. The child interest is that I’ve trained in child and adolescent psychiatry. I’ve been doing assessments of divorcing families since 1968, when I came here to Canada.
While doing these assessments, we were somewhat aware of the strife and what families could do to one another, especially the use of the children.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Goldstein, I’m going to step in and once again remind you that the mandate of this committee is to examine the issue of sexual violence and sexual harassment. We’ve heard from a number of witnesses today who have gone along the same lines that you are about to speak to us. So I encourage you to speak to us about our mandate.
Dr. Sol Goldstein: I’m well aware of that, and I will bring that in a second. I will speak to it; I just would refer you to read this pamphlet that I handed out and then I’ll go away from it and deal with the sexual violence.
First of all, let me just tell you the story about a psychoanalytic patient that I had who was a young, university student who had just failed out and could not get back in. The reason why she could not get back in, or why she failed out—she could not complete examination questions; she could not complete essays. She could do wonderful work, but could never come to a conclusion. In looking at some of these things, I came to recognize with her what had happened and when this had happened in her life. She had been a child who had been alienated and the subject of alienation.
Then we come to something that’s very, very important here and what we’re dealing. Anybody who does any sexual abuse or any sort of abuse of another person puts their needs and their wishes ahead of those of anybody else. They do not see the other person as much as they see their need to satisfy themselves. Does this have anything to do with sexual abuse? Yes, it does. The person who does this, the perpetrator, is quite often—I can’t say “always” but the children who have been triangulated, and have been alienated from one parent, are highly primed to be those sorts of people.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Yes, Mr. Natyshak?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Chair, if I may interject, I believe we’re wavering off the mandate of the committee once again. I have given a cursory review of the material that you’ve provided to us, Mr. Goldstein. I understand what you’re attempting to inform us of, but we are here to investigate and to listen to information and testimony specifically around sexual abuse and sexual assault, without correlation to domestic disturbances. We understand that in some instances there may be—and through your practice you may have been involved in some—but I see no references or peer-reviewed studies in your presentation that would inform us of scientific evidence of this, and I have to call into question the testimony and the relevance to this committee.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you, MPP Natyshak.
Are you prepared to speak directly to our mandate and continue, or would you like to have some questions from our committee?
Dr. Sol Goldstein: I would be very happy to answer questions from your committee.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Okay. We’re going to begin with our PC caucus.
Do you have any questions for Mr. Goldstein?
Mr. Randy Hillier: Yes. I think, along the same lines as the earlier presenter, Mr. Ludmer: Knowing that tomorrow’s abuser is today’s victim—and this would have been probably a better question for somebody from the legal profession than from yours—are you seeing things in our present court system that either amplify the problem or fail to address the trauma that children are experiencing today that might or probably would lead them to a lifestyle of causing abuse themselves later on?
Dr. Sol Goldstein: If we’re looking at abuse, with all due respect, do we not want to understand some of the reasons why people abuse, what happens to them that causes them to abuse? If one is abused and, very specifically, if a person is taught certain things in their life, and if their ability to think clearly, to think critically, to appreciate what they are seeing and to have the freedom to say, “This is what I see, and I don’t have to fear and act out instead”—then we would go a long way. There’s a lot of education that’s needed in this way.
If you’re asking me about the court system, our court system here is much too lenient in dealing with those—
Mr. Randy Hillier: Too lenient?
Dr. Sol Goldstein: Too lenient in dealing with parents who enmesh their children and take away their power to think.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. Our next questions for you are from our NDP caucus.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Sir, I truly appreciate your time here today and your willingness to come and testify before the committee. We’ve heard from many deputants throughout the several weeks that the committee has been constructed, and I’ve yet to be able to make the correlation between the tumultuousness of divorce and the proceedings of divorce that we all know are also prevalent in society being a trigger to domestic violence, sexual violence or sexual assault or abuse. It’s difficult to make a generalization like that, and that’s simply where we are at. We see systemic issues; we see cultural issues; we see socio-economic issues through the divorce proceedings. However, I think your information and your expertise would have more impact through a committee that dealt with the legalities of divorce and the mechanics through the province in that sense.
Dr. Sol Goldstein: Sir, I do not want to argue with you, but there is part of it, if I could allow you to understand what is demanded of the child who is being alienated: That leads directly to changes in the brain and the thought processes which would allow one to do anything to anyone if they feel they need to do it.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. Our final questions for you are from our Liberal caucus.
Mr. Han Dong: Thank you, Madam Chair. Mr. Goldstein, I don’t have a specific question per se, but I just want to make a comment. I see what you are trying to do in bringing awareness to parental alienation, and I appreciate the effort and the passion on this subject.
I too echo my colleague from the NDP caucus. My personal feeling is that the mandate of this committee—we want to be focused and really find out the causes and hopefully some solutions to the culture of sexual harassment and sexual violence. But I do appreciate the fact that you are so passionate about this issue and bringing it forward to the attention of the Legislature. Thank you very much for being here. I don’t have any questions for you at the moment.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. We invite you to join our audience if you wish to do so.
Canadian Children’s Rights Council
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I will call on our next presenter this afternoon. With the Canadian Children’s Rights Council: Grant Wilson.
Mr. Grant Wilson: I have two more articles here—
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Wilson, just to be clear, I’m going to restate for you and the other members of our audience this afternoon that we are here to make recommendations to the Legislature with respect to the prevention of sexual violence and sexual harassment and to improving our response to Ontarians who have experienced sexual violence and sexual harassment. This afternoon we are speaking directly about this issue. You’ll have 15 minutes to make your presentation to our committee, and that will be followed by questions. Please begin any time.
Mr. Grant Wilson: Madam Chair, does that include children who are sexually abused?
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): If you are here to talk about children who are sexually abused or sexually harassed, we welcome that information.
Mr. Grant Wilson: I have two more submissions, which are articles from the Globe and Mail and a national survey, which I’d like to submit as well. I have enough copies here for everyone, I believe.
The Canadian Children’s Rights Council has the most visited website in Canada pertaining to the rights of Canadian children. Each month we have visitors from over 160 different countries. We have more visitors relating to Canadian children’s rights than any other organization that you’ve come across, such as UNICEF or Save the Children.
One of the sections that gets a lot of attention is our section on female sexual predators. It has been quoted in the Washington Post and many, many times over the Internet. Now there are more people dealing with this issue. It has become more common. We have included in our submissions part of our webpage on that, which I think should interest you. If more people were aware of female sexual predators, people like Karla Homolka perhaps would not be walking free today.
The Canadian Children’s Rights Council is mainly unpaid volunteers. The people who volunteer are usually people who had an experience with a child’s rights issue when they were younger and therefore they’re very concerned about these particular issues.
We have substantial research on our website, which you can read. According to the Lucy Faithfull Foundation in the UK, a child protection charity that deals exclusively with female perpetrators of sexual violence, 20% of the perpetrators are females.
The American Humane Association, responsible for gathering yearly reports from 50 US states’ child protection agencies from 1973 to 1987 on child sexual abuse, found that 20% of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse were by women.
In this webpage we have highlighted some of the prejudicial wording which is just sexist. In all these newspaper articles—and our website is an archive of these articles so that people writing about this, law students researching it and journalism students can see all of this and our analysis of it. There are hundreds of articles on this, about female sexual predators. The wording on these is so prejudicial, it’s incredible. If anybody ever wrote that a 40-year-old male teacher had a tryst or an affair with a 12-year-old girl, you would think it was absurd. But, yet, when you read these articles, this is exactly what’s happening in these are articles where news people are saying this female teacher had an affair with a 13-year-old boy. It’s incredible.
We’ve provided you with four videos. One of them is a documentary from CTV from 2001 which is by two female documentary filmmakers from BC. It is extremely informative. They talk about why only 5% of those convicted are female sexual predators. It goes through many situations that people run into. It also talks about a study of university students where they were asked if they had any sexual contact with someone more than five years older than them while they were under 15 years of age themselves. Of those that have had sexual contact with somebody more than five years older, 59% of that was with women.
The videos I talked about include a First Nations one where a female is talking about when she was sexually assaulted by a female member of the family. Such shows as the Oprah TV show on female sexual predators has been included.
You can understand that mainstream media is gradually opening up to the truth that female sexual predators are around. We’re seeing many more teachers and other females in positions of responsibility over children now being convicted. We’ve now got a web page which has over 200 female teachers and people like that that have been convicted of sexually molesting children. Also, if you look at these web pages too, you’ll see the patterns on these and the differences that are quoted in these studies regarding those.
In 2008, the Attorney General of Ontario funded the first conference—I believe it may be the first in Canada, although it was called the first one in Ontario—for male victims of sexual violence. I’ve included the cover page from that: Men of Courage. On that second page, you’ll see the Canadian Children’s Rights Council mentioned doing the PR for this. I think about 600 people attended this, it was at the hotel across from city hall in Toronto. There were many media releases on this well in advance, as well as immediately before this conference. I personally phoned up the Toronto Star and other newspapers in Toronto to come and cover this. It was a multi-day conference. The only newspaper that ever turned up was the Toronto Sun. This isn’t of interest. Assignment desks told me personally that they don’t wish to cover it if it was male victims of sexual violence. That’s terrible. There are people here talking about how they were victims of—this was a world-class conference which had a profiler from the FBI who had been on numerous American TV shows explaining to this audience about who’s doing this kind of violence against male victims. It was a tremendous resource for anybody, and yet the media wouldn’t even cover it because it was male victims. I was astounded by that. I just couldn’t believe it.
Now, Sheldon Kennedy, who has gone on to become a member of the Order of Canada, I believe, was one of the speakers as well, talking about his experience of being violated as a young hockey player. He was one of the speakers at this conference as well as many others who were very well-known.
In the materials that I’ve supplied you is a report called The Invisible Boy. This was put out by Health Canada in 1996. It’s 77 pages. In there it says, “Despite the fact that over 300 books and articles on male victims have been published in the last 25 to 30 years, boys and teen males remain on the periphery of the discourse on child abuse. Few workshops about males can be found at most child abuse conferences and there are no specialized training programs for clinicians. Male-centered assessment is all but non-existent and treatment programs are rare. If we are talking about adult males, the problem is even greater. A sad example of this was witnessed recently in Toronto. After a broadcast of The Boys of St. Vincent, a film about the abuse of boys in church-run orphanages, the Kids Help Phone received over 1,000 calls from distraught adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It is tragic in a way no words can capture that these men had no place to turn to other than a children’s crisis line.”
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Wilson, would you like a moment?
Mr. Grant Wilson: I guess we don’t have too much time, so I’ll just try to get ahead here.
I’ve included an article here which is a rather surprising study in BC, published in the Vancouver Sun—at least an article regarding the study was published in the Vancouver Sun. This article explains the unusual findings that came out of this study by the University of British Columbia. The principal investigator of this study was Vancouver’s McCreary Centre Society. It goes over the fact that female sexual predators are abusing boys, homeless boys, at a rate that they just found unbelievable. The headline is “3 in 4 BC Boys on Street Sexually Exploited by Women.”
Anybody who watches that video, When Girls Do It, about sexual predators, will come to the conclusion that boys need help, that men deserve help and that there should be specialized assistance to them.
After this conference that was paid for by the Attorney General of Ontario, the funding has been basically non-existent, or very little since then. It’s insulting to men. The Attorney General stood up and thought they were doing men and boys a favour by coming up with something like $140,000 in funding over a three-year period to fund the Men’s Project in Ottawa, who put on this conference. They should be funded so that they can continue the good work that they were doing by both the province and the federal government. This is just outrageous. These people don’t get this kind of—
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Mr. Wilson, you have one minute left in your presentation.
Mr. Grant Wilson: I bring your attention to environmental design for the purpose of preventing sexual violence. In particular, there are current designs which you can go and see such as at the Regent Park Aquatic Centre, where all genders can change and use washrooms. They’re all-gender washrooms and change rooms, so the parents can better supervise their children, no matter what their sex is, very closely and in circumstances that are very open and transparent. These kinds of things should be mandated in law. We now see an all-gender washroom in a Toronto high school. There are experts on the environmental aspects of preventing that. So this provides for caregivers and parents to better evaluate these washrooms, to have them all-gender and where it’s much easier for everybody to use. So I encourage you to look at that as well
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our first set of questions for you is from our NDP caucus. Do you have any questions?
Ms. Peggy Sattler: No, we have no questions.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Our next questions for you are from our Liberal caucus.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: We’re really not here to debate male or female, or anything else. What we’re here to do is to look at how, as a society, we prevent sexual violence and abuse in our society. Can you—
Mr. Grant Wilson: I think that starts with becoming aware.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: Okay.
Mr. Grant Wilson: And that’s what I’m doing. I’m showing you that the people who need it aren’t getting the attention and awareness, because people are biased against it and don’t think it exists. In fact, my opinion is that because there are more female police officers—and this is the opinion of experts on this—they are realizing that for these young males who are having sex, it isn’t the thrill of their life at 12 years old; this is extremely damaging to them.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: I would say that we are certainly aware of the issue, and that’s why we’re looking, as a society, at how we prevent all sexual abuse of all individuals.
Thank you very much. No further questions.
Mr. Grant Wilson: It starts with awareness, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. Our final questions for you are from our PC caucus.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much. I think that is the key to this. It’s just for people to be aware that sexual assault and sexual violence comes in many, many shapes and ways, not just the predominant or the one that is seen all the time. I want to thank you for bringing that awareness to this committee, and those studies. Thank you very much.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you for appearing before this committee.
I will now call on our next witness, and that is Cordelia Huxtable. Please come forward.
Committee, we’re going to have a five-minute recess as we wait for our next presenter to join us.
The committee recessed from 1647 to 1653.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment will reconvene.
I would like to call our next witness, Cordelia Huxtable. Please come forward. Make yourself comfortable. You will have 15 minutes to speak to our committee and then that will be followed with questions from our committee.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Perfect.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Just start by stating your name.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Sure. Sorry, these are my handouts. They just arrived as well.
My name is Cordelia Huxtable. I am a front-line worker, an advocate and a survivor. I sat in the audience here two weeks ago, and I found the shared submissions so moving and inspiring that, the next morning, I called and decided to book one, to present my own.
I’ve spent the last two weeks wrestling with myself, to write this submission. This feels scary because you know that rape is a bit of a conversation-stopper. Even though I work in this field and I speak about rape on a daily basis, I know that these conversations tend to happen “in bubble,” in this protective sphere of feminism and sex positivity.
Outside of this bubble, no one talks about rape. In my experience, it is rare that people want to hear from survivors. It is even more rare that parliamentary committees are interested in experiences, stories and recommendations from such a hushed population. So, thank you. I feel grateful to you for creating this opportunity.
In my submission today, I’m going to talk about my experience surviving rape, and the volunteer work I now commit my time to. I’ll make three recommendations as we go through and then sum them up at the end.
My rape took place over a June long weekend almost four years ago. I had arrived in Canada two weeks previous and, as newcomers do, stayed at a hostel while looking for an apartment on Craigslist.
My rapist was a successful, confident young man, who owned a two-bedroom apartment and was looking for a roommate. We met beforehand, chatted and got on pretty well, and I moved in the next day. He picked me up from the hostel, drove me back to his place and toasted me with a “welcome to your new home” drink. Two drinks in, I blacked out.
I have no memory of that first assault. I believe he drugged me.
The next thing I remember is waking up in his bed in the morning, dazed, confused and scared. I felt like I was watching everything as an impartial outsider: I had some realization that I had been raped, but it didn’t register. He was incredibly high and equally aggressive; it seems my first month’s rent went straight up his nose.
The 48 hours following that is a detached blur with continued rape and violence until he finally passed out and I escaped. I hadn’t even had the chance to unpack.
After I escaped, it took me about another 24 hours to fully understand that I had been raped. Let me try and explain why this was. If I think back to the space I was in during the assault, I was totally unprepared for the shock that came when I realized someone could be so cruel and violent, and so it was simply easier to deny that it was happening to me.
On top of this, I was confronted with the picture in my head of what rape was. Mine didn’t look like movie rape. For starters, I couldn’t even remember the first assault. I cannot emphasize enough how completely disempowering that is: to have no memory of being raped, to not have even been conscious for it, and the only other witness is your rapist and it’s in his best interests to intimidate you, to discredit your growing anxiety, to tell you you’re crazy and stupid and melodramatic.
It was only when I could get to safety, try and calm my fight-or-flight reaction, call Mum back home and tell her what had happened, that I finally allowed that realization to sink in: I had been raped.
After that, I was an efficient blur of action. I needed to get help. My first step was to find a crisis line. I never considered calling the police. At that point of crisis, I couldn’t have handled someone asking me questions to clarify if it really was rape, and the only place I felt like I could have immediate assurance and belief was my local, non-profit community centre.
Calling up and saying those words, “Hi, I think I’ve been raped,” opened a door to immediate action and support. The crisis worker was calm and efficient. I said I’d like to talk to someone and figure out my options, so she asked me if I could come to their safe location.
I let my crisis workers take care of everything. They gave me tea and snacks. They talked me through all my options. They drove me to the hospital and sat with me while the sexual assault nurse performed a physical exam, documented cuts and bruises, treated me for STIs, ran blood and urine tests and collected evidence for my rape kit. They checked that I had a safe place to stay and drove me there.
I went back to the centre every day that week and hung out or talked or met with other survivors in their safe house. In my first few weeks in the city, it was the only place I felt truly safe. It was an instant community.
Over the next two weeks, I started furiously advocating for myself. I talked out my legal options with my crisis line workers. I decided not to press charges at that point. Why not? I felt humiliated and ashamed. I felt terrified that I couldn’t remember the first assault. It would be my word against his.
At that time, I found it hard to understand why I never yelled no, never fought. During the rape, I left my body and decided the best way to protect myself was to be complicit until I could find a way to escape.
Now, through the healing I’ve done and the community I choose to surround myself with, I’ve learned that this is a very standard reaction to trauma, that I made the best choice for survival that I could. I’ve learned that this is incredibly courageous and that the Canadian legal system defines rape as the absence of yes, not the presence of no.
But ultimately, and perhaps ironically, although I had the strength to survive rape, I didn’t have the strength to go through the long, fraught process of being a witness to this crime on my body.
My crisis workers at the centre presented third-party reporting to me as an option, and I decided to go with this. I wanted the police to have this man’s name, address and contact details. I wanted them to have my report and to know what had happened. I liked that I was anonymous and that the crisis centre was my intermediary.
This brings me to my first recommendation: Develop and implement many justice pathways.
The needs of every survivor are different, and the only needs I can talk about with total confidence are my own, so that’s what I’m going to focus on here.
I didn’t want to pursue my rapist through the court system. I didn’t want him to have a jail sentence or a record for the rest of his life. I didn’t want him to experience the sort of institutional violence that accompanies punitive punishment, not because I hold any sympathy for him but because that is simply continuing the cycle of violence. You do something wrong; you get punished for it. It’s too basic and simplified for this type of crime, and I do not believe it would change rape culture.
I cannot say with confidence that he knew it was rape. This is what makes it so insidious and worrying. I think he believed that he had the right to do that to me. He told me that since I lived in his apartment, I was his property. I don’t believe it occurred to him to procure my consent. I don’t believe this even crossed his mind.
What do I want from a justice process? I want my rapist to understand why what he did was wrong. I want him to understand that he is a product of a wider culture that makes it possible for him to assume he had the right to do that to me. I want him to be held accountable for his behaviour from his family, his friends and his community. I want him to recognize the hurt and trauma he caused and then to put his energy into doing what he can to ensure positive change in his community. And I want his apology.
I’m interested in restorative and alternative justice for sexual assault, and there aren’t many options. I’ve been involved in restorative justice in my home country, although for less serious crimes, and I’ve seen incredible things happen. The UK is currently trialing a restorative justice process for rape and sexual assault, and the research is fascinating and positive.
So, in summary of this first recommendation, I would like to see a legal system where alternative forms of justice are survivor-centred, community-based and look to change culture, as well as hold a perpetrator accountable. I would also like to see information on third-party reporting more readily available to survivors, with rape crisis centres able to act as a third party.
Okay, that was a scary one. On to my second recommendation.
After filing my third-party report and finding a new temporary place to live, my next step was to get myself some counselling. In addition, I was also unemployed and job hunting and trying to start my new Canadian life. After quite a bit of research, I came across victim assistance funding. Positively, it covers counselling expenses. Negatively, it requires a police report. I tried anyway. I spent a couple of days filling in the form, linking it to my hospital records and the evidence collected there, and writing out the description of the rape. It was a long, harrowing process. I submitted it, and, of course, within days the question came back about why I hadn’t reported to the police. I explained that I had made a third-party report and they said they would have to take it to the committee.
While I was waiting, I called around to try and find free counselling. The best I could find in the city had a three-month wait-list. Thankfully, I found a community centre offering a free weekly drop-in peer support group for survivors. This wasn’t as ideal as one-on-one therapy, but it saved me in those first few lonely, stressed out, exhausted months.
After three months, the Victim Assistance Program got back to me with the decision that, after corroborating my report with the hospital and the rape crisis centre, it was more likely than not that I had been raped, and they granted me 20 hours’ free counselling, renewable for another 20 hours after that. This was honestly a lifesaver. I found a therapist. I had a solid year of weekly therapy which helped me reach the place where I can support survivors today.
Throughout this process, I never once forgot my privilege. I want to acknowledge that although getting support was complicated and sometimes retraumatizing, I was able to make it work for me because I can speak English fluently. Although I was a newcomer, I had legal status in Canada. I had Internet and a cellphone. I had a family who were able to pay for my rent until I could find a job. I am cisgendered and able-bodied and fit the palatable stereotype of the nice, white, young woman. I’m good at filling in forms and navigating bureaucracy. I write well and can eloquently tell my story on a page. I have a clear knowledge of what my rights are. I know where and when to look for help.
This is a lot of privilege, and support for survivors should not be this difficult.
My second recommendation is that the provincial government explore the ways in which victim assistance funding for counselling can be made more accessible to survivors who may not want to give a police report or do a rape evidence kit at the hospital or hold any of the privilege I listed above.
Now, on to my third and last recommendation.
Since surviving rape, my life path has taken quite a turn. I volunteer as a crisis line counsellor for Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, TRCC/MWAR. I do three overnight shifts a month, from midnight until 8 a.m., sleeping lightly and waking up to be there for women, men and trans folk in crisis.
I run workshops for newcomer youth on sex education and healthy relationships at Planned Parenthood Toronto. Tomorrow, I’m speaking with 15 teenagers at a high school drop-in program about communication and consent.
I volunteer as a peer educator at the University of Toronto Sexual Education Centre talking to students about sexual identity, health and pleasure.
I spend my sunny weekends writing a submission for the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment in Ontario.
I don’t get paid to do any of this work, even though it is all front-line, even though it is highly skilled, even though it is absolutely critical and necessary.
All of these places I volunteer at are anti-oppressive, safe spaces. They do not require ID. They do not care about past criminal records. They offer support in many languages from people who have been there themselves, from people who look like you, from people who understand and get it and really care. The services these places offer are almost always free and provide a safety net for all the women, men and trans who would usually fall through the cracks.
However, they also run on tiny budgets, with severely limited resources, staff and volunteer burnout, and no funding stability. As you heard this morning, TRCC/MWAR, the only rape crisis centre in the city and operating for 40 years, has five paid staff. PPT, Planned Parenthood, a huge, well-respected, international organization, has only a handful of paid educators. UTSEC at U of T has no paid staff at all.
The sad thing is that many of my fellow volunteers are survivors too. They, like me, are doing this work for free because we have first-hand knowledge about what happens if no one is there. We have personally experienced the violence, trauma and shame of rape culture, and we absolutely have to do something about it, even though it is unpaid with long hours and largely unrecognized outside of our communities.
This is not okay. To continue to allow so much of this work to happen on shoestring budgets, only funding one- or two-year projects, with such a huge volunteer workforce is to seriously devalue it.
My third recommendation is simply that community groups doing this work need to be better funded. This funding has to be consistent, ongoing and guaranteed. I believe that the places I volunteer at are creating positive change, but we could do it faster, wider and more effectively if we had more money.
So in response to this committee’s mandate—preventing sexual violence and harassment, improving the response to survivors and shifting barriers that prevent survivors from coming forward—I make three strong recommendations: (1) develop and implement many justice pathways; (2) explore ways to make victim assistance funding more accessible to survivors; and (3) ensure more ongoing and guaranteed funding for rape crisis centres and sex education community groups.
Thank you very much for listening so respectfully. I now welcome your questions.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Take a deep breath and lean back. Have some water. Our first questions for you are going to come from our Liberal caucus, from MPP McMahon.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: Thank you, Cordelia. I wrote down three words while you were talking: courageous, articulate and fortunate. The last one is because the people you serve and help are very fortunate to have you.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Thank you.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: I found your presentation very moving. I’m sorry.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: That’s all right. You’re making me cry now too.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: No, I’m sorry. I don’t intend to do that. It’s not about me, and I apologize; I’m being selfish, I’m sorry. But I did. I found your presentation very moving.
In your first recommendation, you talked about restorative justice programs. I wondered if you might talk to us—you referenced at the bottom of page 3 that you talked about this in your own country, New Zealand. I’m sorry, I thought you were from Australia.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: That’s all right.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: And I wondered if you might share with the committee what that might look like from your point of view, because that’s really interesting.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: I was hesitant to write more specifically on this because the restorative justice I have been involved in has not been about sexual violence. It was a minor assault when I was a teenager, and the woman who assaulted me was too young to go through the court system. In the New Zealand system, it’s called a family group conference, but I know Canada has similar things. It’s like family circles.
It was awesome. Her whole family came along and my family came along. It was held in a marae, which is like an indigenous meeting house in New Zealand. For four hours we talked out everything. We ended with a lot of food. The best thing about it, though, was that her family hadn’t realized what had happened and she hadn’t realized the impact it had had on me until we could talk it out. From there, she did some community service. She had to check in with a crisis worker every month or so, and that was for six months.
I know that sexual violence is a lot more serious than that. To be honest, I don’t know what that would look like. I don’t even know what that would look like in my situation. But I feel like there’s lots of work being done already in Canada and around the world that can suggest forums for that.
I was looking at the circles of support and accountability. I know that’s post-prison, but that was something that sparked my interest, looking at sex offenders and talking about why they are doing this.
Sorry; that didn’t feel very eloquent.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: No, it was well done. Thank you.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: You’re welcome.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our next questions for you are from our PC caucus.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I was just going to maybe build on that topic also. We’ve heard consistently that the current process, for many reasons, some of which you experienced personally—and I thank you for having the courage to come forward to help us to try and navigate the system and make it better for victims. You did mention the UK currently looking at that. I don’t know; I’m sorry, I missed a little part. Was that the question from MPP McMahon about whether you have been able to find out any more details of that restorative justice?
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: In the UK?
Ms. Laurie Scott: Yes.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: It was honestly a quick Google search. There have been lots of articles about it recently.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Yes. It seemed like it was a little bit difficult—more difficult than I’d like to hear—to hook up with counselling. Do you have any suggestions on how we can make that better? What were the stumbling blocks? Was it a financial cause, do you think, that you didn’t get it sooner?
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: I know that because it’s called crime victim assistance—the funding for counselling—it’s tagged to a crime having to have happened. Of course, because in the system we have, a crime is only recognized if it’s reported to the police; that’s the biggest stumbling block. What about crimes that aren’t reported for all the other societal reasons? Why are they not reported? How can the people who choose not to report crimes but still have had crimes done against them get funding? I don’t know, but that’s what I see as the biggest barrier at the moment. I don’t know of any other funding that pays for counselling that isn’t attached to crime reporting.
Ms. Laurie Scott: That’s fair. Maybe I’ll just ask research, if possible, if we could find out anything more about the UK example that was presented. That would be most helpful.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Yes, they’ve just started it. It’s brand new, and it’s really exciting.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Okay. Thank you very much for bringing that to our attention. I did not know.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. Our final questions for you are from our NDP caucus.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you, Chair. If you’ll indulge me, I just want to say: Bravo.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Thank you.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Your testimony is the reason that we’re having this committee, and the recommendations that you’ve provided to us are exactly what we need to hear. On behalf of the committee, thanks for coming back. Thanks for having the courage to say, “I’ve got to do something here.” It’s serendipitous.
We have many questions. I don’t like that somebody said “more likely than not.” That makes me very sad.
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Thank you. That’s really good to hear.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: After three months, the Victim Assistance Program—I’m going to ask that our committee look at that. We should not have to qualify it. It should be presumptive that if you’re going there and you say that something happened to you, they shouldn’t have to qualify you. My goodness, it shouldn’t take more than a second to say, “Let’s get this person some support.”
I defer to my colleague for the remainder of the time. Thank you, Chair.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Yes. I totally share everything that Taras just said. Thank you so much for coming today.
I had a question about the third-party reporting that you were able to do. I wasn’t aware of that option. Who is the report made out to? Is it made out to the police? Does the perpetrator become aware that this report has been filed? Can you tell us more about that?
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable: Third-party reporting is when—in my case it was made through a rape crisis centre. It means that the rape crisis centre notifies the police that this person has been, for example, raped. They refer back; they say, “We’ve been anonymously told.”
What happens is, if this person has a criminal record already, then that can be used in evidence. It can’t be used in evidence, as far as I know, if that person rapes again and another woman reports it. The third-party report can’t be used in that evidence, but it is often used if somebody wants to come forward anonymously and report about crimes going on in a particular area and would like the public to be aware, or the police to kind of watch the area or watch that person. It’s like a heads-up, but it’s anonymous. What happens is that someone needs to act as the third party. Often that might be a hospital sexual assault centre or a rape crisis centre, to say, “We have this information. Here is what happened, and it’s about this person.”
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Okay. Thank you very much,
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Ms. Huxtable, we are very grateful that you came here today and you spoke to us. You have really helped to inform this committee, and many of your recommendations will be very seriously considered, so thanks again. We invite you, if you wish, to join our audience now.
Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): We’re going to call up our next presenters, our last presenters for today, Egale Canada. Please come forward, and take the witness chair.
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: Thank you, Madam Chair, and members of the select committee.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Make yourselves comfortable. You’ll have 15 minutes for your presentation, and that will be followed by questions from our committee. Begin by stating your names, and start any time.
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: My name is Ryan Dyck. I am the director of research policy and development with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. With me today is Chandra McIvor, who is our resource and development coordinator. On the far right is Jane Walsh, who is interim manager of Egale Youth OUTreach, which I believe she’ll chat a little bit about, as we get going.
We are here on behalf of Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. We are Canada’s only national lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex and two-spirit human rights organization, advancing LGBTQ human rights through research, education and community engagement.
We are a long-standing organization, having been around since about 1986, primarily focused on legal advocacy and litigation in the past, but in the past decade or so increasingly focused on education, community service and resource development. Much of our work, certainly in the past few years, has focused on issues of hate crimes and general violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community, with a particular focus on trans and gender-variant people, which will be the focus of our testimony to you today.
I’ve included a bit of information about our organization in the package that is in front of you, which I won’t go through in too much detail. Certainly, you can read through on your own.
I did want to quickly highlight some of the objectives of our testimony today, at which point I will pass it off to Chandra and Jane, who will speak through the recommendations that are in the package in front of you. We will probably only speak to the first five, but we have included 10 recommendations for your consideration.
Our four objectives today, first of all, are to highlight the fact that members of the LGBTQ2S community are at elevated risk for experiencing violence, in particular sexual violence and harassment, including intimate-partner violence; and, in addition, that members of the LGBTQ2S do experience elevated barriers in terms of accessing support services and in reporting experiences of violence and harassment.
Second, we want to highlight that the risk for sexual violence and harassment is increased for those with intersecting identities. In particular, we’ll speak a bit to experiences of two-spirited aboriginal LGBTQ2S women and transgender women of colour.
Third, the need for trauma services provided by members of the LGBTQ2S community to the LGBTQ2S community is significant.
Finally, we want to highlight the need for safer-space training within mainstream, or non-LGBTQ2S, violence-against-women services generally.
With that, I am here, certainly, to address any questions regarding our organization and the work that we do, but I’ll pass it off to my colleagues to speak specifically to our recommendations.
Ms. Chandra McIvor: Hello, everybody. Thank you again for having us and welcoming us. I’m going to start on page 3 of your package, if you’d like to meet me there.
Like my colleague has said, we do have 10 recommendations outlined. Depending on time, we’ll likely just speak to the first five.
The very first one that I’d like to bring up is what we call safer-space training, with the acknowledgement that this is an ongoing professional development service that keeps up with research and innovative, creative things that are happening amongst categories of identity and gender etc. It is essentially the capacity-building amongst front-line workers, and the ability for LGBTQI2S persons to be able to report experiences of sexual violence and then find a safe space to be able to do so.
There is a significant need, as some of the statistics will show you. LGBTQ survivors of violence rarely go to the police, the courts or intimate-partner-violence shelters for support. We have a huge demographic that is not accessing the support services that already do exist for them, or when they do access those services, they’re finding discrimination in doing so.
Part of that discrimination comes largely from homophobia and transphobia. We need the education for front-line workers and support service providers to be able to identify those types of systems of oppression and work to create safer spaces for persons who are reporting sexual violence and who do need to receive support in navigating these types of systems.
Just on page 4, one of the objectives in providing this type of professional development service would be to increase the ability of LGBTQ communities to access discrimination-safe spaces to report sexual violence as well as access the support services. This is especially true for professionals who may be coming from rural communities or communities where there isn’t a lot of exposure to or experience with same-sex partnerships, same-sex or same-gender common law, or with persons who are transgender or gender-variant. So there might be an increased need for this type of professional development in these smaller communities or communities where there may not be as much experience with gender-variant persons.
Ms. Jane Walsh: The delivery of services specific to transgender women really requires specific, sensitive service. Just to get a sense of that, the knowledge of ever-expanding categories of gender and identity beyond the gender binary—for example, gender-queer, agender, gender-fluid—requires specialized knowledge and training. Currently Ontario does not have a crisis counselling or trauma counselling professional service which is able to meet the needs particularly and specifically for trans women who have experienced sexual violence or harassment. The point that is really important for you to understand in terms of the needs is that experienced counsellors in violence-against-women agencies, even LGBT counsellors, require specialized transgender safe-space training to provide safe, sensitive care to transgender women.
Ms. Chandra McIvor: To couple with the advanced training needed particularly to work with a demographic who are outside the gender binary, one of the recommendations we have made is number 3, which is to establish a crisis counselling and trauma counselling hotline which is accessible toll-free across the province. There we’re looking again at getting past some geographical barriers to LGBTQI2S persons who do not reside in larger centres such as Toronto as well as getting past barriers of access to support services based on financial needs.
This hotline would be specific to transgender youth and adults who have experienced or are experiencing sexual violence, assault or harassment. Again, this goes back to the need for specialized and advanced training to work with this particular demographic in our population, especially considering their high levels of vulnerability and trauma.
The idea behind this hotline as well is that it would be staffed by persons who are from the transgender community themselves and have that type of experiential understanding of the needs of this particular demographic going through this particular experience.
Ms. Jane Walsh: Recommendation number 4 is funding to create and maintain a LGBTQI2S-specific legal service centre by the LGBTQI2S community for the LGBTQI2S community. What we are saying is, by the community, for the community, in the community.
A legal service navigating the legal system in cases particular to rape and sexual violence and assault is often fraught with heterosexual and cisgender structures and dynamics. As a result, we need people who are knowledgeable to represent survivors.
In specific cases where people have experienced intimate-partner violence, there is an increasing need for support in navigating the legal system specific to custody and access disputes and divorce proceedings for same-sex or -gender partners. I want to tell you that I’m also a parenting coordinator, and I have worked several times with lesbian lawyers who were afraid to enter the court system and were afraid to use the service of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. So I want you to really hear that: These are lesbian lawyers; these are women who should not be afraid of the court system. It’s really important that this speaks to the need for the service that we are recommending.
This legal service centre could potentially partner with the crisis counselling hotline that we suggested and offer accessible legal advice to those who want to bring their abuser to justice. They could also potentially provide networking services to connect survivors with legal assistance within other communities across the province.
This legal centre would include the services of LGBT2S mediators and parenting coordinators, which helps avoid going to court at all and is a much cheaper solution to a lot of custody and access disputes.
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: Many of the recommendations that we’ve prepared for you are based on our experiences of having run a national organization for over 25 years—math is not my strong suit—since 1986. Much of it is experiential knowledge. You’ll note that we’ve included a series of statistics in the front of your package. It’s very limited and it doesn’t speak directly to our communities, in many cases. What we’ve included is a lot of indirect indicators. That is because of the simple reality that the LGBTQ2S community is and has been systemically ignored in most research and service provision across our history. It is really only in more recent services, such as our crisis counselling centre—of which Jane is the interim manager—where we’re starting to actually see targeted services looking at violence and harassment against LGBTQ2S communities.
That being said, we can certainly look at indirect indicators. We can look at our experiences with LGBTQ2S people across the country. We can go through the constant phone calls and walk-ins that we’ve received from community members on a regular basis, but we really don’t have significant research or statistics or academic knowledge to present to you to verify the recommendations that we’re putting in front of you.
I don’t say it to undercut the veracity of the recommendations or the need therefor, but to highlight the need for research. One of the biggest inhibitors for us to implement these recommendations ourselves, as a community, is that we don’t have the research. We don’t have the academic evidence in order to make grant applications or to make more powerful submissions to a committee such as this.
For that reason we’ve included recommendation number 5, which is the specific funding and resourcing of research capacity relating to sexual violence and harassment against LGBTQ2S communities.
We have begun to do some. My colleague Barbara Perry, who is an expert in hate crime—we were fortunate enough to receive some funding to spend some time travelling across Ontario in particular, but also across Canada, speaking with LGBTQ people and, in particular, trans women with their experiences of hate crime. I will tell you that while that was a qualitative study, invariably people spoke of their experiences with sexual violence and harassment, the impact of that often being challenges with mental health and experiences of suicidal feelings—significant experiences throughout the community.
Certainly we’ve begun that process, but there is a significant need to continue it and to continue the concerted effort to obtain research. That is what we’ve attempted to highlight here in recommendation number 5.
The other thing that I certainly want to highlight in that is that beyond simple research around LGBTQ2S communities, we know that in experiences of oppression, identity is not limited to one factor for each person. Certainly we’re looking at the experiences of trans women of colour and aboriginal two-spirited women where we see, again, indirect indicators. But we know that the experience of aboriginal women with sexual violence and harassment is quite high. We know that the experiences of transgender women with sexual violence and harassment is quite high. If you are both aboriginal and transgender, we don’t have that research but we can extrapolate that the risk for sexual violence and harassment will be even more elevated. So it’s not just looking at general research, but really a significant capacity to look at intersecting factors such as race and ability and gender identity and expression is really quite significant and important.
Where are we at with time?
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): You have one minute remaining.
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: I think at that point, unless you have something to finalize, we’ll wrap it up and turn it over to questions.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much for your presentation. Our first questions for you are from MPP Scott.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Thank you very much for appearing here. I don’t mind if you want to finish up, if you want to take my time. It doesn’t matter.
Ms. Chandra McIvor: No problem.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Are you sure?
Ms. Chandra McIvor: Yes.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Okay. I heard all you said, especially about a flexible court system. Is there anywhere that you could give a best practice? It just kind of helps evolve if we can look to see. The same with collecting research. How can we better move these issues forward? Anybody want to take a stab at that?
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: I can certainly speak to the research aspect; that would be my area of expertise. I think one of the more significant challenges that we have there in terms of collecting research that is meaningful and that can be applied rather than sit on a shelf or in a database that we don’t have access to is putting an emphasis on community-based and participatory research, and looking at funding models that don’t—my personal campaign: Most research funding goes directly to universities, with a requirement that community-based agencies are involved, but without any funding going directly to community-based agencies. So organizations such as ours are expected to participate in research, devote significant resources to research and then implement the research without any of the funding. Certainly, we would encourage you to look at research funding models that are more equitable in terms of valuing both experiential and academic knowledge, and valuing research funding models that provide resources for implementation.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our next questions for you are from our NDP caucus.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Yes, thank you very much for the recommendations. Despite the lack of research, you make a compelling case.
I appreciate the recommendation about the hotline which would be accessible across the province. Is it your view that LGBTQ2S people would be interested in using mainstream services if there was this safer-space training, or would they be more likely to access a hotline that was specifically for their community?
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: I’d be happy to answer that. In our experience, I would use a comparator, because we don’t have a lot of research specifically around sexual violence and access to hotlines. Certainly around suicide prevention or mental health hotlines, we do see that LGBTQ2S people will opt out of non-specific services. If they don’t see themselves expressly represented, the assumption is that whoever’s on the other line won’t be prepared to respond respectfully and authentically. Quite often, we hear from people who will call a hotline and have to spend the first portion of it explaining their identity to the person on the other end—explaining what “trans” means before they can even get services, which can compound the trauma that one is already experiencing.
Ms. Jane Walsh: And Egale historically is a policy agency. We moved into front-line work because of the gap in service and people not accessing service. Right now, the Egale Youth OUTreach centre that responds to youth suicide and the high rates of youth suicide and homelessness is there because those young people will not access service, except in emergency rooms in Ontario, other than our service, which is very significant in terms of the cost.
I wanted to say that in terms of the legal model that you asked about, we were looking at an LAO model of a legal clinic—to the previous question.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. Our final questions to you are from our Liberal caucus, from MPP McGarry.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: Thank you very much for your presentation. I just wanted to ask a couple of more details about your safer-space training. My questions would be: What’s involved? How much time? What would it cost to do that training? Number two, would that training transfer to the hotline so that they could identify with whoever is on the other end of the phone?
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: That’s a large question. Certainly, we offer an array of different training services. Our goal would be certainly that anyone who is providing social services or crisis counselling services would be receiving this in pre-service: within the education system before they even get into doing the work.
Our training typically for educators, for example, will provide a full day of training as a 101, a basic understanding of terms and concepts and identities and then some basic steps in terms of creating safer and more inclusive spaces. We also offer longer two- or three-day training sessions. The cost certainly depends on quite a number of factors. I don’t know if I can give you a quote on the spot, but—
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: The timing helps. Would it transfer it over to a hotline situation?
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck: In terms of being applicable? Absolutely, yes.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: Just a quick question: Would that then transfer to the person on the other line, the person who was seeking the services? They would be able to identify that the person on the other end of the phone could address their situation.
Ms. Chandra McIvor: Basically, it’s just increasing overall efficacy and capacity of whoever is responding to that person who is in a trauma or crisis position. When we talk about the capacity building, we are talking about first responders, so police officers, medical professionals.
We do need to acknowledge that there are a lot of—I particularly have experience working with trans youth and I do know of particular situations where a trans youth has been sexually assaulted, say, in a washroom situation. As we know, washrooms are very-high-danger places for trans youth. But because of the response they got from the police officer, they never filed a report, or because of the response they got from the medical professional, they never went through with actually obtaining care.
The capacity building in terms of the safer-space training we’re talking about is with those persons, so that, when you are in a crisis, the person you’re talking to or accessing at that moment will be better able to respond to you.
Again, yes, there would be transfer over to a crisis hotline. The way I see it is that those are two separate services; each does their own job in maintaining care and maintaining mental health and maintaining trauma counselling. When the event happens, there are first-line responders who need that training right away.
In terms of going back to your community and how do you handle that, how do you cope with the everyday, that’s where the hotline, I think, would kick in and be really helpful in reducing instances of suicidality etc.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much.
Ms. Jane Walsh: I can give you a quick example of one of our clients—or am I digging into the time?
I was working with a 20-year-old pregnant trans man with a very significant history of sexual assault and suicidality. The first time he went to Mount Sinai—very close to giving birth—he didn’t have a very positive experience and I was very worried about what was going to happen. We provided training, as well as other LGBTQ organizations in the city. Mount Sinai, to their credit—my young client had a very positive experience of giving birth, really quality care and very positive. So it’s just amazing what a bit of training can do.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: A circle of care. Thank you very much.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): We would like to thank you very much for coming here today, appearing before our committee and informing us of your group and the important work that you are doing. So thank you very much.
Ms. Chandra McIvor: Thank you, everyone.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Committee members, before we all scatter, I just have some information to pass on to you with regard to dates. We have some added and upcoming dates. If you can make note of this in your calendars, we are meeting Monday from 2 until 6 and next Wednesday, same as today, in the morning and again in the afternoon.
I know that MPP Scott would like to ask a question of our researcher.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Correct. I know when we were travelling in northern Ontario—and I can ask my fellow committee members if they can remember if it was Sudbury or Thunder Bay that had a court that combined, I think, the domestic courts with—
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Family.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Family Court, yes. Do you remember where that was? We were just wondering if we could get some researcher feedback on—I think that was—
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I think it was Sudbury.
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: I think it was Sudbury too.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Sudbury? Okay, Sudbury seems to be the answer to this. So just to—
Ms. Erin Fowler: Background information on it.
Ms. Laurie Scott: And just to see how far along the project was and if that is possibly helpful to us in our committee.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you. That concludes—oh, MPP McMahon?
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: Chair, can you repeat those committee times? I wasn’t writing fast enough.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Yes. Monday, 2 until 6; Wednesday, same as today, 9 a.m. until 10:20 and 3:30 until 6 p.m.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: Okay, great.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): That concludes our hearings for today. We’ve certainly had a very interesting day today, haven’t we committee members? We’ll see you all next week.
The committee adjourned at 1738.
Wednesday 6 May 2015
Strategy on sexual violence and harassment SV-259
Fathers Are Capable Too SV-259
Mr. Brian Jenkins
Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape SV-262
Ms. Deb Singh
Ontario Collaborative Response to Family Violence SV-265
Ms. Julia Manuel
Ms. Emma Harvey
Ms. Rubaiyat Karim
Ms. Penny Fisher SV-268
Canadian Women’s Foundation SV-271
Ms. Anu Dugal
Ms. Barbara Gosse
Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham SV-274
Ms. Esther Enyolu
Ms. Atiyya Bacchus
Parental Alienation Awareness Organization SV-276
Mr. Brian Ludmer
Dr. Sol Goldstein SV-278
Canadian Children’s Rights Council SV-280
Mr. Grant Wilson
Ms. Cordelia Huxtable SV-282
Egale Canada Human Rights Trust SV-285
Mr. D. Ryan Dyck
Ms. Chandra McIvor
Ms. Jane Walsh
SELECT COMMITTEE ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
Chair / Présidente
Ms. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre / Kitchener-Centre L)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Présidente
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock PC)
Mr. Han Dong (Trinity–Spadina L)
Mr. Randy Hillier (Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington PC)
Mrs. Marie-France Lalonde (Ottawa–Orléans L)
Ms. Harinder Malhi (Brampton–Springdale L)
Mrs. Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge L)
Ms. Eleanor McMahon (Burlington L)
Mr. Taras Natyshak (Essex ND)
Ms. Peggy Sattler (London West ND)
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock PC)
Ms. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre / Kitchener-Centre L)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr. Granville Anderson (Durham L)
Mr. Chris Ballard (Newmarket–Aurora L)
Ms. Sophie Kiwala (Kingston and the Islands / Kingston et les Îles L)
Mr. Peter Z. Milczyn (Etobicoke–Lakeshore L)
Ms. Soo Wong (Scarborough–Agincourt L)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr. William Short
Staff / Personnel
Ms. Erin Fowler, research officer,
Ms. Carrie Hull, research officer,