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Working to End Sexual Violence and Harassment and Support Survivors

Backgrounder

Working to End Sexual Violence and Harassment and Support Survivors

Office of the Premier

Every person in Ontario has the right to live free from violence and harassment, including sexual violence and harassment, in their home, workplace and community.  

In 2011, Ontario launched a $15-million, four-year Sexual Violence Action Plan that engages community organizations to implement public education and training initiatives, and work to improve community and justice responses to sexual violence.

Ontario also continues to support programs and services to prevent sexual violence and harassment and help victims.

Services for survivors of sexual violence:

  • Forty-two Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centres, providing a wide range of services, including 24-hour crisis lines, counselling, referrals, information and support to women who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence.
  • Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services, providing immediate assistance to victims of crime (male and female) 24/7 and referrals to community agencies for longer-term support. 
  • The Victim Support Line, available 24 hours a day in more than 150 languages, and the online Victim Services Directory provide both male and female victims of sexual assault with referrals to community support services. Individuals can also access information about provincially-sentenced offenders and can register to receive automated notifications when an offender's status changes via the Victim Notification System.
  • Two province-wide crisis telephone lines for women who experience violence:
    • The Assaulted Women's Help Line
    • Fem'aide (for French-speaking women)
  • An investment of $14.5 million over three years to support front-line workers who support women and children who are fleeing abuse.
  • Standards of care for hospitals have been developed to better support victims of sexual violence.
  • Training for more than 6,000 professionals in the health, education, justice and social service sectors on evidence-based practices to address sexual violence and support women who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence.
  • The Language Interpreter Services program has been expanded to help women who have experienced sexual assault to access health care, legal and social services in over 70 languages. Sign language interpretation is also offered to improve access to services for women who are deaf, oral deaf, or hard of hearing.
  • Cultural sensitivity training for workers who support immigrant or refugee women who may have experienced sexual violence in their countries of origin during war or civil unrest.

Strengthening the criminal justice response:

  • Development of cross-sectoral training for Crown Counsel, police and other justice personnel to help conduct effective investigations and foster more responsive and supportive environments for survivors.
  • A review of the Victims' Assistance guideline within the Policing Standards Manual resulted in amendments to the guideline to better facilitate information sharing of victim information between police services and victims' services providers, upon notice to the victim, as well as ensure victims are referred by police to appropriate services available in their area. 
  • The Victim/Witness Assistance Program provides information, assistance and support to victims and witnesses of crime to increase their understanding of, and participation in, the criminal court process.
  • Hospital-based Sexual Assault Treatment Centres conduct forensic testing to provide evidence for cases and ensure that victims of sexual assault have access to comprehensive and timely support to address their medical and legal needs.
  • Ontario has encouraged the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence to distribute intimate photos or videos of a person without their consent. In 2013, the federal government introduced a bill in response to this issue, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate.

Public education to prevent sexual violence:

  • An international forum to discuss the impact of sexual violence on older women.
  • A provincial forum to develop an effective sexual violence public education campaign.
  • The province is funding a number of bilingual public education campaigns to help change attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate sexual violence, including:
  • It starts with you - It stays with him / Ça commence avec toi. Ça reste avec lui campaign encourages men to act as role models for boys and to educate boys about gender equality, consent and relationship skills.
  • The Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites campaign, which engages Ontarians in thinking about how they would respond to situations of sexual violence against women and girls, and to educate them about how they can help.
  • Public education grants provided to Francophone women's organizations, including raising awareness of sexual violence. 
  • Public education materials to increase awareness about transgendered women and girls' experiences of discrimination and violence, and to encourage bystanders to create safe, inclusive and supportive spaces for transgender people. 

Other initiatives to address sexual violence: 

  • A resource guide to help Ontario's colleges and universities develop policies and protocols to prevent and respond effectively to sexual violence on campus.
  • Training of service providers on how to support diverse women who are at risk of forced marriages under the Professional Training on Sexual Violence Prevention program.
  • Funding for annual conferences to help service providers provide better supports for South Asian women experiencing or at risk of violence, including in intimate relationships. 
  • Development of a number of initiatives across Ontario to raise awareness and to help prevent and respond to human trafficking for sexual exploitation. These focused on increasing prevention, strengthening law enforcement and the prosecution of offenders, and assisting victims by facilitating access to the supports and services they need. 

Preventing sexual violence in Aboriginal communities: 

  • Supporting the Aboriginal partners on the Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women to conduct planning, research and community-based initiatives to respond to violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
  • Continued funding for Talk 4 Healing - an Aboriginal women's help line serving Northern Ontario that provides services in Ojibway, Cree and Oji-Cree.
  • Honour life, End violence  - Kanawayhitowin (Taking Care of Each Others' Spirit), a  province-wide public education campaign focused on raising awareness about the signs of woman abuse and targeted at Aboriginal men, women and youth encouraging them to seek assistance and end violence. 
  • Kiizhaay Anishinaabe Niin (I am a Kind Man) - a province-wide public education campaign and community-based services to encourage Aboriginal men, youth and boys to speak out, and also live without using violence, to help prevent violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
  • Supporting participatory research to identify local system responses to Aboriginal women who have experienced sexual violence and to plan for service improvements.
  • Supporting a First Nations Draw-the-Line sexual violence prevention campaign in Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

Preventing sexual harassment and violence in the workplace:

  • As of June 2010, changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act place additional duties on employers to address workplace violence and harassment.  Harassment as defined in the OHSA is broad enough to include sexual harassment. 
  • Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are required to develop and implement policies and programs to address workplace violence and workplace harassment, as defined in the OHSA, including domestic violence when an employer becomes aware of it. 
  • A variety of guidance materials are available on the Ministry of Labour's website to help businesses achieve compliance with the legislative requirements.

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