Creating Safe Cities & Sexualized Violence in the Age of COVID-19

Vancouver Reopens & Sexual Assaults by Strangers Rise

 

July 1st saw the long awaited return of Vancouver’s nightlife after months of closures and restrictions. As BC moved into Step 3 of it’s Restart Plan the hospitality industry rejoiced having struggled to stay afloat through the pandemic. The reopening signals a return to another normal – one of unaddressed, rampant stranger-based assaults in Vancouver’s nightlife.

 

Vancouver Granville Strip at Night

Vancouver’s Granville Strip at Night (Photo Credit: Will Young, ThinkPol.ca)

 

BWSS Takes to The Streets! Safety Changes Everything.

 

In the last year, BWSS saw a growing number of women and girls in need of street-based interventions and resources and in May of this year launched their street-based Outreach Program ‘Safety Changes Everything’. The goal of the Safety Changes Everything Team is to be a visible presence within communities. Building relationships with women and girls to community-based resources, as well, and providing immediate crisis-interventions.

 

 

Responding to the to growing numbers of street-based, stranger-based assaults on the Granville Strip , BWSS teams are increasing their presence amongst Vancouver’s nightlife. The Safety Changes Everything Team, wants people to know if they are in distress and experiencing sexualized-violence or abuse to reach out. The Safety Changes Everything Team is available to provide immediate crisis response, emotional support, connect people to resources, advocacy and accompaniment to police, the hospital or medical services.

BWSS has been calling for action by the City of Vancouver, particularly in the Downtown Eastside and  Granville Entertainment District since early this year. Confirming what the Safety Changes Everything Team had been reporting, last week VPD released new figures which show a 129% increase in reported cases in the month of July alone – prompting them to relaunch the Hands Off! campaign.

Rarely though are sexual assaults reported to the police.

 

Constable Tania Visitin Press Conference

Vancouver police Const. Tania Visintin says even with the recent increase in reports, sexual assaults are vastly underreported. (CBC News)

 

 

City of Vancouver and the UN Safe City Initiative

 

Vancouver is one of six Canadian cities which is part of the UN Safe Cities and Public Spaces Initiative – a global initiative led by UN Women. The initiative aims to address gender-based and sexualized violence and harassment by focusing on the City’s policies, planning, programs and services and how they can be changed and applied to increase safety and build safer public spaces.

BWSS knows that gender-based, sexualized violence and physical expressions of violence are systemic issues. We know that prevalent normalization of violence and attitudes and beliefs rooted in racism, colonialism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia and ableism express themselves in ways that harmful and often deadly – particularly for Black, Indigenous, immigrant Women of Colour and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities.

BWSS has been on the frontlines of work to create safe public spaces for decades – working in partnership with TransLink, bars & night clubs, and through our street-based community outreach team. As advocates for women and children experiencing gender-based, sexualized violence and harassment we routinely bring forward recommendations at all levels of government on policy and legislation which directly impacts Women’s safety in public spaces.

The City of Vancouver is now in the first phase, scoping study of the initiative. This involves a survey to gain a deeper understanding of gender-based violence and sexualized violence and harassment in public spaces.

The survey is open to anyone who has experienced or witnessed gender-based and sexualized violence or harassment in Vancouver. Examples include unwanted touching, cat-calling, being followed, or homophobic, transphobic, and racist harassment.

The survey is available in English, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Punjabi and Spanish

TAKE THE SURVEY

Some of the questions on the survey could bring back or remind you of upsetting or traumatic memories and trigger uncomfortable to intense emotions, sensations or other responses. If you are feeling triggered during the survey, feel free to stop at any point or take a break and come back to it.

BWSS is available through our 24-hour Crisis Line by phone 604-687-1867 or by text 604-652-1867 for those requiring support and resources.

More details on this The City of Vancouver’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Initiative can be found at https://vancouver.ca/people-programs/un-safe-cities-and-safe-public-spaces-initiative.aspx

Sexual Violence and Disclosures

Sexual Violence and Disclosures
many women who access BWSS say that sexual abuse is an ongoing part of their intimate relationships

In all situations of sexual violence, the responses to initial disclosures influence the recovery process and outcomes for survivors. As services providers, allies, and community members it is important to create an environment where survivors feel comfortable if they choose to disclose sexual violence.

Gender violence is a social issue and our society is saturated with rape culture. Rape culture condones physical and emotional violence against women as the norm which is one of the many reasons women do not feel safe disclosing sexual violence. Ending sexual violence begins with shifting thoughts, actions, and beliefs around consent, gender roles and the myth of the perfect victim. As a society we need to commit to treating survivors with respect and supporting them.

Rape CultureIn order to change societal norms around sexual violence we must understand consent. When there is no consent in any type of sexual act it is sexual violence. Consent is an agreement that is made voluntarily to engage in sexual relations with another person. However, consent is more than obtaining a verbal yes answer. Consent is not present when the person is incapable to consenting. For example someone under the legal age of consent is not able to consent. Further, the person asking for consent can’t be someone who is in a position of authority or power and use that power to force, scare or manipulate someone into consenting. Consent can also be revoked; if someone initially agrees and then expresses a change, the sexual activity must stop.

The difficulty with changing attitudes around consent is that beliefs about consent are deeply rooted in historically misogynist attitudes towards women complicated by other forms of social inequalities such as racism and classism. While anyone of any gender can be a survivor of sexual violence, the myths surrounding consent are based on notions that define gender in strict terms. These include the ideas that women are naturally submissive to men and are seen as objects for sex. Furthermore, male aggression is considered an acceptable way of self-expression and that men are entitled to women’s bodies. It is also important to note that sex and gender are not the same. Sex is assigned biology and gender is performance we are taught depending on the identity assigned at birth. Gender performance, is important to our understanding of consent. Survivors are often influenced by social myths around sexual assault and consent, and can sometimes blame themselves for the sexual violence.

Consent It’s important to be aware that these social myths, and the way we think about consent, influence how we respond to situations. As individuals, we can increase our awareness of how we are influenced by these myths. Our ongoing learning, and our ability to apply increased awareness, also requires a culture of learning in our communities and at work. Frontline workers, depending on their work, have different mandates. For example the police investigate sexual violence to establish whether charges can be made, and consider how the information might proceed to court. Those who work in social services and education primarily provide emotional support, information and resources.

A number of changes have been made to the Criminal Code around consent. The old law describes sexual violence as crimes of rape, attempted rape, and indecent assault. These have now been changed to three levels of sexual assault. Based on the changes, assault is now defined by lack of consent, as well as harm to the victim. The hope was that the changes would lead to an increase in reporting, fewer cases would be classified as unfounded, and there would be an increase in the number of cases where a charge is laid. However, the percentage of cases in which a charge is laid still remains low, and although reporting has increased since the updated law, it also remains low.

The three new levels of sexual assault offences are gender-neutral and include a specific section regarding people with disabilities and sexual assault in a marital relationship is included. There is also new legislation on cyber-bullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. It was also determined that there are many actions and words that can convey lack of consent, however, the responsibility rests with the person seeking the sexual contact to actively decide that there is consent, and that implied consent is not a defense.

Even with all of the clear definitions of consent interpreting methods of coercion used by perpetrators as criminal actions continues to remain a problem, for the courts, for bystanders, for first responders, and often for survivors. Perpetrators use myths about consent, or intentionally change the meaning of consent, in order to force victims and to validate sexual violence. This is where the power imbalances that are created by gender and social status play a role in coercion.

At Battered Women’s Support Services over 80% of women self report sexual violence in their intimate relationships. Sexual violence is often bundled up with coercion used as a tactic of power and control.

Power and Control Wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BWSS offers training on supporting survivors of violence for more information email [email protected]

The Bro-Code ~ Episode 7

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) and BCIT Radio Arts and Entertainment Students have collaborated to deliver The “Bro-Code” Radio Project for Prevention of Violence Against Women Week 2014. The “Bro-Code” is a seven episode radio drama that discusses sexual violence against women. The radio project was inspired by “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign which originated with Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE) and explores men’s role in ending sexual violence.

The seven episodes feature the talent of three student writers and twelve student voice actors who dramatize complexities and dynamics in effect within youth culture around sexual violence. By speaking to youth the radio drama is well placed as girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault.

“As someone who has experienced sexual violence first hand, I felt this was a great and creative way to help the issue. The series is entertaining, relatable, and educational hopefully it will help change the misogynistic attitudes of young men.” said Jenny Cooney, Producer.

We expect this project will help illuminate real choices for individuals about preventing sexual violence and the community the courage needed to get a handle on and reduce the incidence of profound rape culture.

Listen the second episode of The Bro Code below.

Let’s foster and ethos in Canadian society that urges men to support their female equals.

Episode Description: Ben realizes that Carol was a victim of rape and now fully supports her. He then stands up to all of his friends who condone and support misogynistic and violent behavior against women. Zack gets what he deserves.

Written and Produced By:
Jenny Cooney
James Hutchison
Jill Pasquayak

Music:
Dan Johnson

Episode 7 Cast:
Ben-Sam Mitchell
Carol-Bronwyn Henderson
Zoe-Brooklyn Driediger
Zack-Andy Cole
Ms. McLintock
Travis- James Hutchison

Listen The Bro-Code’s past episodes here:

The Bro Code ~  Episode 1

The Bro Code ~  Episode 2

The Bro Code ~  Episode 3

The Bro Code ~  Episode 4

The Bro Code ~  Episode 5

The Bro Code ~  Episode 6

Thank you for BCIT students for creating The Bro Codes radio spots to support youth cultural shifts, safer spaces and social change.

Find more information:

Creating Transformation, Prevention of Violence Against Women Week events here.

BCIT students and Battered Women’s Support Services Collaborate to Prevent Violence Against Women

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

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The Bro-Code ~ Episode 6

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) and BCIT Radio Arts and Entertainment Students have collaborated to deliver The “Bro-Code” Radio Project for Prevention of Violence Against Women Week 2014. The “Bro-Code” is a seven episode radio drama that discusses sexual violence against women. The radio project was inspired by “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign which originated with Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE) and explores men’s role in ending sexual violence.

The seven episodes feature the talent of three student writers and twelve student voice actors who dramatize complexities and dynamics in effect within youth culture around sexual violence. By speaking to youth the radio drama is well placed as girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault.

“As someone who has experienced sexual violence first hand, I felt this was a great and creative way to help the issue. The series is entertaining, relatable, and educational hopefully it will help change the misogynistic attitudes of young men.” said Jenny Cooney, Producer.

We expect this project will help illuminate real choices for individuals about preventing sexual violence and the community the courage needed to get a handle on and reduce the incidence of profound rape culture.

Listen the second episode of The Bro Code below.

Let’s foster and ethos in Canadian society that urges men to support their female equals.

Episode Description: Ben starts to get suspicious about what happened between Carol and Ben. Zoe doesn’t believe that Carol got raped and instead blames her for drinking and flirting with Zack. Ben’s mom tells him to get his old ideas of women out of his head and to foster the proper mindset that supports his female equals.

Written and Produced By:
Jenny Cooney
James Hutchison
Jill Pasquayak

Music:
Dan Johnson

Episode 6 Cast:
Ben-Sam Mitchell
Carol-Bronwyn Henderson
Zoe-Brooklyn Driediger
Zack-Andy Cole
Ben’s Mom-Melissa Montgomery

Listen The Bro-Code’s past episodes here:

The Bro Code ~  Episode 1

The Bro Code ~  Episode 2

The Bro Code ~  Episode 3

The Bro Code ~  Episode 4

The Bro Code ~  Episode 5

Thank you for BCIT students for creating The Bro Codes radio spots to support youth cultural shifts, safer spaces and social change.

Find more information:

Creating Transformation, Prevention of Violence Against Women Week events here

BCIT students and Battered Women’s Support Services Collaborate to Prevent Violence Against Women

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

images

 

The Bro-Code ~ Episode 5

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) and BCIT Radio Arts and Entertainment Students have collaborated to deliver The “Bro-Code” Radio Project for Prevention of Violence Against Women Week 2014. The “Bro-Code” is a seven episode radio drama that discusses sexual violence against women. The radio project was inspired by “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign which originated with Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE) and explores men’s role in ending sexual violence.

The seven episodes feature the talent of three student writers and twelve student voice actors who dramatize complexities and dynamics in effect within youth culture around sexual violence. By speaking to youth the radio drama is well placed as girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault.

“As someone who has experienced sexual violence first hand, I felt this was a great and creative way to help the issue. The series is entertaining, relatable, and educational hopefully it will help change the misogynistic attitudes of young men.” said Jenny Cooney, Producer.

We expect this project will help illuminate real choices for individuals about preventing sexual violence and the community the courage needed to get a handle on and reduce the incidence of profound rape culture.

Listen the second episode of The Bro Code below.

Let’s foster and ethos in Canadian society that urges men to support their female equals.

Episode Description: We see the party from Zack’s misogynistic point of view. His friends begin to realize he treats women poorly and start to turn against him.

Written and Produced By:
Jenny Cooney
James Hutchison
Jill Pasquayak

Music:
Dan Johnson

Episode 5 Cast:
Ben-Sam Mitchell
Carol-Bronwyn Henderson
Zoe-Brooklyn Driediger
Zack-Andy Cole
Dave-James Hutchison
Mike- Tim Main
Josh- Brendan Williams

Listen The Bro-Code’s past episodes here:

The Bro Code ~  Episode 1

The Bro Code ~  Episode 2

The Bro Code ~  Episode 3

The Bro Code ~  Episode 4

Thank you for BCIT students for creating The Bro Codes radio spots to support youth cultural shifts, safer spaces and social change.

Find more information:

Creating Transformation, Prevention of Violence Against Women Week events here

BCIT students and Battered Women’s Support Services Collaborate to Prevent Violence Against Women

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

images