Shining a Light on #MeToo
May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month . Additionally, Victims and Survivors of Crime Week begins May 29th. This is an important time to bring to the forefront of our minds and hearts the experiences of victims.

In a world where sexual violence is increasingly being exposed, we must continue to believe the experiences of victims and to breathe life into new ways of doing the work of justice. It can be easy to view the #MeToo movement as something that is happening outside of our own communities but through movements like #ChurchToo and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual we can see clearly that these issues are impacting our communities and are closer to home than we may think.

As a group of people with the burden on our hearts to support healing within the justice system through restorative approaches, we have power to be agents of change. This month, as we focus on the experiences of victims, it is important for each of us to remember the power we have to act as supports, to believe victims when they come forward and to try to make a difference.
This year has been filled with watershed moments in which formerly formidable men have been felled from power. From Harvey Weinstein to Bill Cosby, with Jian Ghomeshi and Matt Lauer, and scores more between, men of influence and authority have slipped into disgrace in unprecedented numbers. What has come to be known as the #MeToo movement has been credited with a novel credibility and weight being accorded the reports by women, and by some men, of abuse and harassment.

Just as the social activism of #MeToo has many dimensions, so too do its future implications. While we are still in the midst of a “me too moment”, a backlash against perceived excesses of this social activism is rising. The countercurrents in a culture war are powerful on many sides. I would argue that empathy and restorative justice are fundamental components of logical and appropriate next steps towards an improved set of social relations for all, following the dramatic revelations, firings, and criminal charges arising from the rising social tide of disclosures of sexual impropriety and abuses of power.

The #MeToo movement is not one, single, cohesive, organized social activist effort. The movement itself started as a viral hashtag on social media which came into the forefront of public consciousness in 2017, but had actually begun earlier, with its innovation by social activist Tarana Burke. The hashtag went viral when popularized in 2017 by celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon, and Alyssa Milano, among others. The #metoo movement is of particular relevance to the work of the CCJC because its ambit is to connect people through empathy. Using the #metoo hashtag, women, and men who had been harassed and assaulted, by the thousands, came forward in solidarity with those who disclosed victimization and survivorhood, sending a powerful signal of solidarity: the victims were not alone.
           
While the core of the #MeToo movement as a social media phenomenon centres around empathy, so too do some calls for restorative justice in response to the watershed of myriad revelations of abuses of authority. For instance, actor Laura Dern, in her acceptance speech at the 2018 “Golden Globes”, stated that she “urge[s] all of us not just to support survivors and bystanders who are brave enough to tell their truth, but to promote restorative justice.”
          
 We are dealing with a complicated set of problems for which we, as a society, collectively all bear responsibility for complicity. There is no single solution to the problems revealed in the narratives of survivors who have come forward to tell their stories. What is revealed through the #MeToo narratives is a diverse array of non-consensual sexual improprieties and abuses of power. Not all of the abuses are in the entertainment or employment context; they span many industries; they implicate personal lives; not all the victims are women and not all of the perpetrators are men; not all of the acts alleged to have constituted impropriety also fall within the definitions of criminal offences; and certainly not all men have been harassers or abusers.
           
Just as the problems are complicated, so a varied range of solutions is called for. Among them, as Laura Dern has suggested, we should seriously contemplate more and better access by victims and survivors to processes of restorative justice. While restorative justice processes outside of the formal criminal justice system will not be appropriate in all cases, and while criminal convictions seem highly appropriate, for instance, in the Bill Cosby case, there are many situations where victims of sexual offences themselves both call for, and report positive experiences with, restorative justice . As University of Illinois legal scholars J ennifer Robbennolt, Colleen Murphy, and Lesley Wexler , have argued, the #MeToo movement, by showing how the structural and societal nature of problems of sexual misconduct intersect with the individual fault of the perpetrators of that misconduct, “creates an opening f or a conversation about what it takes to make amends for serious wrongdoing, as well as recognizing that wrongdoing exists along a spectrum,” looking for restorative ways to heal harms while, prospectively, shifting workplace and interpersonal social dynamics.


Rebecca Bromwich
President, The Church Council on Justice and Corrections
Christian Perspectives on #MeToo
Learn more about #MeToo from a Christian point of view, including #ChurchToo a hashtag collecting the tweets of Christian women, exposing an unchecked problem within the church and other Christian organizations by reading below. It is incumbent upon us as members of the Christian community to demand better and to usher in necessary change.

Over 100 evangelical women leaders have set a powerful example through the #SilenceIsNotSpiritual campaign calling pastors, elders, and parishioners to seize this “moment—a window of opportunity to bring healing in the world and in the church” by working to bring an end to every form of violence against women globally. According to the Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women and Girls statement (which thousands have already signed), “This moment in history is ours to steward.”

If we are good stewards of this moment, "You are not to blame. You did nothing wrong. You are not alone." are the messages we hope every victim will hear and believe. Read more below:



"Contrary to romantic interpretations, the story of Ruth was a #MeToo story waiting to happen. Only things turn out differently for Ruth because Boaz, a man of considerable power, doesn’t use his power and privilege for himself. Instead, he employs them sacrificially to empower Ruth and ensure her initiatives on Naomi’s behalf succeed..."



"While God wants to release us from the desire to exact our own vengeance on wrongdoers, he doesn’t demand that we minimize wrongdoing. Rather, biblical forgiveness commits us to truth-telling and to moral reparation..."



"Tragically, this crisis has been brewing for generations... We’ve been hearing #MeToo stories here and there—whispered in the shadows of big steeple churches, revealed in painful phone calls and emails of despair. It has taken much too long for the truth to break out in the open. Women of faith are recognizing the opportunity—indeed their responsibility—to seize the moment. They are doing exactly that..."


"Faith can be a very powerful thing, and power without accountability is a dangerous thing... if they actually recognized the power that they afford to their faith leaders, they would demand the implementation of accountability structures. It’s what responsible organizations do."
CCJC's Work
In October of 2017 CCJC's President, Rebecca Bromwich and Executive Director, Melanie Younger appeared before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to strongly support the movements made in Bill C-51 towards more balanced and compassionate procedures in sexual assault cases.

Specifically, recommendations were made to:

  • Codify the existing common law that unconscious persons cannot consent to sexual activity.
  • Expand Canada’s “rape shield” provisions to cover communications of a sexual nature or communications for a sexual purpose.
  • Create a process for determining whether an accused can introduce private complainant records that the accused has in his or her possession.
  • Ensure that a complainant has a right to legal representation in rape shield proceedings.


CCJC has used its educational and communications platforms to support Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action related to justice including call number 41:

"We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include:

i. Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

ii. Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools"

Likewise, CCJC is currently using its educational and communications platforms to support the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples within the Canadian legal context via Bill C-262 including Article 22 of UNDRIP which asserts:

"1. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.

2. States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination."

CCJC recognizes that Indigenous women statistically suffer from much greater levels of violence than other women in Canada.


CCJC is currently in the final stages of developing our female-specific curriculum for use in The Empathy Project ( our ongoing program to support incarcerated individuals in the healthy development of empathy and a deeper understanding of the impacts of crime on primary and secondary victims.)

We have chosen to create a program specific to women, as we've uncovered through research and consultation is that women may present with additional needs regarding emotional boundaries and empathy moderation/development of healthy empathy that require the acquisition of different skills than those required to address an empathy deficit. In order to support women in breaking the cycle of violence through the development of transferrable life skills, we feel it is essential to offer a curriculum tailored to those needs.

Support & Self-Care
ACROSS CANADA

From the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, a fairly comprehensive list of rape crisis centres and women’s centres in Canada:

Assaulted Women’s Helpline:
GTA 416.863.0511
Toll Free 1.866.863.0511
TTY 416.364.8762
Toll Free TTY 1.866.863.7868
Mobile #SAFE (#7233)
 

Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children

Canadian Resources of Victims of Crime: http://crcvc.ca/links/

Native Women’s Association of Canada: http://www.nwac.ca/
 

EDMONTON

The Walk-In Counselling Society of Edmonton (WICSOE) provides immediate access to counselling services and charges on a sliding scale based on clients’ financial situation: http://www.walkinedmonton.org/contact/

Compass Centre for Sexual Wellness provides sexual health education and counselling services free of charge: http://www.compasscentre.ca/home/


University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre on campus is available to anyone at no charge and regardless of their affiliation with the University: http://www.sac.ualberta.ca/en/ContactUs.aspx

Their phone number is (780) 492-9771, and they offer phone services. They are located on the second floor of the student union building, in room 2-705. They have drop in hours from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm until October, at which point they have drop in hours from 9 am to 8 pm, although their evening hours are based on volunteer availability so you can call to check whether someone is scheduled to work or not. They also offer email support at SexualAssaultCentre@ualberta.ca.

TORONTO

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women against Rape provides 24-hour crisis counselling by phone at (416) 597-8808 and offers one-on-one counselling sessions Monday-Friday (to schedule, call (416)-597-1171). They also provide legal, prison and court support, workshops, support groups, and service in Spanish: http://www.trccmwar.ca/

The Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre is open 24/7:


The Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic offers counselling, legal support, and language interpretation for women facing sexual and intimate partner violence: http://schliferclinic.com/about/about-us/

Helping House offers important resources and support services for newcomers and non-status women:



Counselling and Psychological Services at the University of Toronto offers assault counselling and education. To make an appointment, call the confidential line (416) 978-0174:


 

VANCOUVER

Women against Violence against Women Rape Crisis Centre offers a 24/7 crisis line at (604) 255-6344 or toll free 1-877-392-7583, 24-hour hospital accompaniment, individual counselling, services for Aboriginal women and youth, support groups, advocacy and education:


 

KINGSTON

Sexual Assault Centre Kingston offers free, confidential, non-judgmental support to survivors of sexualized violence http://www.sackingston.com/. They also have a 24-hour crisis and support line at (613) 544-6424 or 1 (877) 544-6424. They do not offer counselling for male survivors. They advise male survivors to contact K3C Community Counselling Services http://k3c.org/Home/tabid/36/Default.aspx at (613) 549-7850.

 

GUELPH

The University of Guelph compiled a Sexual Assault Support Guide for those in Guelph and Wellington County, including the Waterloo region and Dufferin County. It is extremely thorough and includes contact information for resources both on and off campus, as well as an extensive section of educational information. While the guide is over 70 pages long and as such is potentially intimidating, the index is extremely clear and a vital place to start:


 

HALIFAX

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre offers individual and relational counselling for those experiencing or recovering from sexual assault or violence. They also offer legal support and advocacy and community education:


For those who have experienced a sexual assault in the past 72 hours, Avalon also offers a sexual assault nurse examiner. For more information: http://avaloncentre.ca/services/sexual-assault-nurse-examiner/

 
OTTAWA

The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa has a 24/7 crisis phone line – (613) 234-2266, and provides individual support, support groups, services for youth at risk and advocacy:


The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre offers a 24/7 crisis line – (613) 562-2333 – and individual counselling with a variety of approaches, including art therapy, play therapy meditation and relaxation, EMDR cognitive behavioral therapy. They also offer workshops and public education:


In Ottawa, trauma-informed yoga at The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa, May 26th.
" Violence against her is violence against us. We face an urgent and defining moment in history. As Christian leaders, we recognize those in the churches who stand with and support survivors of violence...We will not retreat from the pain in our midst. Women of all faiths, races, cultures and backgrounds are bravely breaking their silence...Called by faith, compelled by love, and committed to the promise that women will live free from the terror of violence... sparking genuine change in the very place we call our home—the local church. "

- #SilenceIsNotSpiritual,
Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women and Girls