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The hashtag is #Speakout. The number of people affected by sexual violence is probably more than you think. The Elizabeth Fry Society is on a month-long campaign to try to raise the profile of the problem and raise funds along the way.
The recent revelation that the Kelowna RCMP have shown an extraordinary tendency to send complainants home and label their complaints "unfounded" has drawn new attention to the problems around sexual violence.
The fact that 40% of sexual assault files are being dismissed in this way emerged from numbers gathered by Stats Canada, and it prompted a review at the local detachment. But it's just one more barrier to addressing an issue that the Elizabeth Fry Society says is too often swept under the rug. Sadly the issue with all the "unfounded" cases at the Kelowna RCMP doesn't come as a complete surprise to Kelowna Elizabeth Fry Society Executive Director Michelle Novakowski, "We knew it was bad," she said, "but it was disappointing." So the society isn't shy about directing the public attention toward their campaign. "It's really timely," said spokesperson Mandy Glinsbockel, "The point of the campaign is to activate this whole community into a larger discussion about sexual violence and assault here in Kelowna."
The cases that are considered by the RCMP are just the tip of the iceberg according to the society. Most incidents don't make it that far. "Under 10% are reported to the police. In fact, some stats show 6 to 8%," said Novakowski.
She said there is a little of victim-blaming that goes on, even by the victims themselves. "Survivors often feel that they shouldn't have had so much to drink, or they shouldn't have gone with that guy, they should have known better that he wasn't a good guy," she said, "that it's their fault."
For Mandy Glinsbockel, who has only been with Elizabeth Fry for a few months, it's been an eye-opener. "I realized how little I knew about the extent of sexual violence in our community," she said, "and a lot of people I've spoken to since don't realize how large of an issue it is."
For more on the #Speakout campaign, check out the news release here.
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