If you want the Sea to Sky corridor to be a safe place for anyone with a body, particularly a female body, please join the roundtable conversation on May 25, at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

I can’t really talk about why it’s important to support the work of the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, and particularly, their May 25 Roundtable to discuss sexual assault and prevention, without getting really mad.

I’m one of the lucky ones. The predator types who tried to assault me didn’t get more than a grope on a crowded train. One guy, when I was a 12 year old walking home from school, swerved his car into the opposite lane, down our quiet street, leaning across to open the passenger side door, but some spidey-sense of mine was already on alert, and I ducked into a neighbour’s yard and ran home and called my mom at work and she, and the cops, arrived soon after.

Like I said, I was one of the lucky ones. Because there was nothing the cops could do about that guy. But who knows what he did the next day. To some other girl.

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I talked with Shannon Herd Cooley, the sexual assault prevention advocate with the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, last week, and she shared statistics that just left me wordless and pissed.

My friend Paul shared this article not long ago.

And again, I was wordless and pissed.

Then I did a bit more reading, and discovered FBI stats from 2014 that say a women is raped every 4 1/2 minutes.

Seriously?

Data from Washington State says that one in three women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. What the hell? Why do these perpetrators think they can get away with it? Oh. Because they do.

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And it’s not just south of the border. It’s right here.

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I didn’t even know what “sexualized violence” was, when the Howe Sound Women’s centre tweeted out invitations to attend their May 25 Roundtable.

So I emailed and asked.

 

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Shannon Herd Cooley helped me out.

“Sexualized violence is a very broad term, encompassing sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual abuse (sexual assaults occurring over a period of time). ‘Rape Culture’ is a vernacular term often linked to sexualized violence,” she explained.

“The forum is focused on addressing sexual assault, both in terms of coordinated response by service providers and preventing sexual assault.”

“The issue of prevention is more related to sociological factors and public education.”

“Statistic Canada has a very good section on the picture of sexual assault in Canada, with statistics such as young women under 25 are most at risk. That being said, sexual assault is experienced across the board, including both genders, sexualities and across generations. Sexual assault is about having power over another individual, so if it is seen in terms of ‘purposefully exploiting vulnerability’, it helps the public take the ‘sex’ out of ‘rape’. By this extension, the viral consent video, ‘Consent: It’s As Simple As Tea’, does a good job of demystifying affirmative consent when it comes to sexual relations through the metaphor of serving tea. Forms of vulnerability may include, being a newcomer, disabled, cultural background, poverty or ethnicity.”

“In terms of local stats, Sea to Sky Police Services (RCMP) have been good enough to share the following numbers documenting sexual assault reported to police. Typically, only 6 to 10% of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police. See PPT slide #3. This power point was from last November, so not all the info contained is current. Slide 3 has not changed, though.”

“Another solid source of information has been from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, but this data detail sex crime has not been published since 2011. I am attaching our Whistler Needs Assessment from 2011. See pages 8 and 9. Otherwise sexualized violence is an understudied area of data collection. I am going to forward an article detailing this.”

Tea and Consent from Blue Seat Studios on Vimeo.

Can I summarise? The Sea to Sky region suffers almost three times the number of sexual offences as Richmond or North Vancouver. And there’s a dearth of appropriate services for really helping treat and support survivors.

Are you mad, now, too?

Wednesday’s forum is a roundtable to create community-led directions to respond to sexual assault.

It runs from 1:00-4:00pm at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (4581 Blackcomb Way, Whistler).

The forum features insight from Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Nancy Skucas and Program Manager, Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General, Wendy Potter with Indigenous, Health Care, Justice and Community perspectives.

The more people who are able to attend, the more the Women’s Centre will be able to  demonstrate a unified regional voice to support ongoing resources, whether in direct service or education.

What that means is, in short, is this: a massive crisis that is being swept under the carpet, will keep getting swept under the carpet, and women will keep carrying the burden of violence and shame and not being able to feel safe in their bodies, in their communities, unless we all agree to lift that beast of a carpet up, and say, hey, can we get some help here?

All men and women are welcome to attend.

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Community Directions is an initiative of Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society through the financial support of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

Please RSVP and direct any questions to: sherdman@hswc.ca

 

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