The BC government has reaffirmed its commitment to battling sexual violence in the province.
Minister for Public Safety Mike Morris says the province will be issuing grants to support programs focused on the prevention of sexual violence and assisting its victims. As outlined in last year’s Violence Free BC Strategy, the funds will come from civil forfeitures.
Morris reiterated the province’s commitment to achieving a violence free BC.
“We set out five priorities over the next decade to help us get there: challenge our beliefs and behaviours;
ensure services are responsive, innovative and coordinated;
support women to rebuild their lives;
address violence against aboriginal women; and
foster strong relationships and new partnerships.”
Another component of the strategy is the #SaySomething campaign, which launched last year. #SaySomething focuses on raising awareness around sexual assault, particularly among young people, and getting survivors and witnesses to speak out.
Morris says eliminating sexual violence is the responsibility of every BC resident.
“The fact is, we all have a role to play in helping to stop violence against women in all its forms. And that starts with speaking up, doing the right thing and saying something to help prevent victimizations and to support victims when that violence does occur,” says Morris. “Say something to help a victim access services they need, say something to ensure that it is the perpetrator’s actions, not the victim’s, that are being held to account. Please do your part, rise to the challenge when opportunities arise and say something to end sexual violence in BC.”
The campaign’s website includes resources for victims of sexual assault, support workers and bystanders who want to help. Its goals include dispelling common myths about sexual assault, raising awareness about resources to address the problem and empowering bystanders to take action when they witness an assault.
One of the #SaySomething campaign videos
Prince George City Councillor Garth Frizzell says he supports the #SaySomething campaign even as he laments its necessity.
“The bigger issues is, why can’t we get this to stop? Getting awareness is important but it’s horrendous that it’s still such a problem in 2016. Maybe with campaigns like this, it can help to end it.”
Prince George RCMP Victim’s Services Coordinator Krista Lavar says support for survivors is crucial, especially when it comes to reporting sexual violence.
“It takes so much courage for people to do it and I think any opportunity we have to help facilitate that is so power. The sexual violence is one of the hardest cases that we have to deal with.”
An estimated 70,000 sexual assaults occurred in BC in 2014. Many of those assaults took place on college and university campuses. In response, the government is working on Bill M205, the Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act, which will address the mishandling of sexual assault cases by some post-secondary institutions in the province.
And while the #SaySomething campaign is a step in the right direction, there are other challenges to be overcome. When asked about the intense scrutiny that those who report sexual assaults tend to face in court, Morris had this to say:
“That’s something I’d like to explore. It’s been an issue that I’ve looked at for years, during my in time with the RCMP. Why would anybody want to come forward and re-victimize themselves by going to court? I don’t like what I see so we need to come up with a better system to make people feel safe to come forward and report the sexual assaults that take place and make them the authors of their own future, so to speak.”
Morris says the issue is high on his list of priorities to discuss when he meets with the federal justice minister later this year.
More information on the #SaySomething campaign can be found here. It’s part of BC’s Vision for a Violence Free BC.