OPSEU Provincial Women's Committee

May is the month dedicated to raising awareness for Sexual Assault (Awareness and Prevention)

Me Too. Sign on table

The 19th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness month is a good time to note that for half a century there have been individuals fighting for sexual assault prevention. Although sexual violence was not openly talked about during the civil rights era of the 1940s and 50s, black activists like Rosa Parks began to challenge the status quo.

Social revolutions such the recent #MeToo and #NoMore movements have roots that date back years, and in this instance, to an incident that took place on September 3, 1944 when news of a horrific rape of a 24- year-old black mother, Recy Taylor became known.  At that time, the NAACP sent its best investigator to investigate why there had been no arrests. The investigator’s name was Rosa Park – the very same Rosa Park who ten years later became famous for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a White man. Rosa and her colleagues, other women of colour, fought against gender-based and race-based violence. This unique way of advocating around the many issues affecting women became a framework that years later in 1989, advocate and Professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw, labelled “intersectionality”.

Sexual violence is a violation of the fundamental human right to safety. Unfortunately, most victims of such assault are under the age of 25. It is imperative that sexual violence is not accepted in any form.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says to prevent sexual violence we must speak up when we see or hear others are engaging in abusive behavior.

“We have to make it our business to interfere, to say something, and not to be a passive bystander,” said Thomas. “The responsibility lies on each and every one of us.  We must also spread awareness of available resources whether it is in person or through virtual help centres, which are now available throughout the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Since the province-wide lockdown due to COVID-19, there have reports of increased incidents of sexual violence across the province against young children and both women and men.

Survivors of sexual abuse often experience forms of rage, and experience low self-esteem and poor body image that can lead to addiction and self-harming behavior, while others may experience feelings of shame and anger which can lead to difficulty with intimacy.

OPSEU’s First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says “One case of sexual violence is one case too many.  We must join together in solidarity to ensure everyone knows sexual violence is unacceptable.”

OPSEU activist and Chair of the Provincial Women’s Committee, Dianne Clarabut sees these unprecedented times of COVID 19 as a perfect time to educate our children. “No society can afford to normalize sexual violence as part of their culture,” said Clarabut. “We must see the “Me Too” movement as a continued call to action, especially now. No one should be left alone, not even in self-isolation.  We must continue to look out for each other.    We have a responsibility to all those brave women who paved the way for us, to continue to look after those who are vulnerable and at risk – we must continue to work to change our world for the better.”