The figures are publicly coming out about

The recent stories on sexual harassment have provided
reasons for reflection by many people, causing those in powerful positions to
think twice about how they treat others in the workplace and quite possibly for
some of the people in your workplace as well. Most importantly, it has emancipated
women in particular to feel confident knowing they have the right to speak out
when they are being sexually violated and also allow them to acknowledge that
it is required that they have these basic human rights. Recent studies
conducted by Statistics Canada displayed that as much as one in three women are
affected by sexual violence in Canada and it also confirms that 43% of women
have been sexually harassed in their workplace (Canadian’s Women Foundation,
n.d.).

Although it has been many months since the revelations
that came in daily with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other
Hollywood stars, they are still sparking conversations today (Toronto Sun,
2017). In addition, it may perhaps sparked a cultural shift regarding sexual
violence and hopefully into Canadian workplaces as well. Women were more than
twice as likely as men to say they had experienced unwanted sexual contact
while at work (Canadian’s Women Foundation, n.d.). This new wave of action
against dominant, predatory figures in Hollywood is a crucial step in
addressing the prevalence of sexual assault. It’s good hearing that dozens of
female public figures are publicly coming out about Harvey Weinstein’s
deliberate acts, but women who have come forward about sexual assault are
often discredited, blamed, socially ostracized, or faced with retaliation,
resulting in frightened victims. In fact, only 5% of sexual assaults were
reported to the police in 2014 (Canadian’s Women Foundation, n.d.). This is
because most of the victims don’t have a million-dollar safety net to fall back
on like celebrities do and that’s why a change is needed to the Canadian
criminal justice system.

Defined by the Supreme Court of
Canada, workplace sexual harassment is the “unwelcome conduct of a sexual
nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse
job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment” (Lublin, 2017).
This is a rather broad definition of workplace sexual harassment. Any unwanted
sexual behaviour should be considered as sexual violence. A survivor could be
severely affected by all forms of sexual violence, including unwanted fondling,
rubbing, kissing, or other sexual acts (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2017).
There are also many forms of sexual violence that involve no bodily contact,
such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings (Queen’s Printer
for Ontario, 2017).

All of these acts are serious and can
be damaging. In a Global/Ipsos Reid poll, the most common reason women provided
for not reporting an incident to the police was due to feeling young and
powerless (56%) (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2016). Forty percent of respondents
said they remained silent about the situation they were in because of the shame
they felt and 29% placed the blame on themselves for the assault (Canadian
Women’s Foundation, 2016). Others worried that reporting would bring shame to
their families, feared revenge from their attacker, or had no belief in the
criminal justice system (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2016).

Society’s understanding of sexual violence can be
influenced by misinterpretations and false beliefs. Thus separating myths from
facts is also critical to stopping sexual violence. One of the most thought of
myths of sexual violence come from those who believe that sexual violence is
most often committed by strangers – but a recent study disproves that (Queen’s
Printer Ontario, 2017. Statistics Canada conducted a study concluding that
based on the majority of sexual assaults that were laid by the police; about
87% of victims knew their assailant as an acquaintance, a family member, or an intimate
partner (Rotenberg, 2017).

The backlash on Harvey Weinstein rose
men, and in addition to women, to speak up about sexual violence in their
workplace. This is a prime factor to recent talk about sexual violence because
with more people talking about the problem, we can hope that society is heading
to a “new normal.” So instead of supporting attorneys who work to silence
victims, workplaces should try evolving the culture from the traditional
patriarchal system to one where victims never have to be afraid of being
retaliated. Although there are still people who disagree that sexual violence
is occurring in their workplace, we should not omit that a thorough process of change
requires strength, resolution and understanding that we’re all not perfect
individuals who must and can grow. Without that, our world would be a toxic and
divisive place for a long time if no changes were made.

To conclude this, it is advised you
have conversations about sexual violence with your friends, family, and
acquaintances. In order to have a net positive effect on our society, we need
to change society’s perspective on sexual violence and continue conversations
that lead to change.

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