Flagging the way forward on sexual assault
By Pamela Cowan, Leader-Post April 30, 2012
More than 1,000 purple flags were planted in Victoria Park’s green lawn on Saturday – visible signs of an invisible issue – sexual assault.
“Sexual assault – they are two words that most people feel very uncomfortable discussing,” said Robin Treso, speaking on behalf of the Regina Women’s Community Centre and Sexual Assault Line (RWCC). “Sexual assault – two ominous and violent words that denote pain and suffering for countless number of people across the globe. Sexual assault is both a crime and a social epidemic. They are two words that we all wish did not exist.”
Each flag represents one of the 1,139 reported sexual assault victims in Saskatchewan in 2010 – the latest year statistics were available, Treso said.
She noted Saskatchewan has the highest sexual assault rate in the country.
The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics indicates that nine out of every 10 sexual assaults are never reported, Treso said.
“Increased reporting is so important because we need to continue to shine a bright light on this dark subject,” she told those gathered in the park. “We know there is a lack of reporting and this indicates a reality that sexual assault is still very much an invisible issue in Canadaian society.”
The RWCC hosted the flag-planting event during National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.
“This year’s message is called Moving Forward and that is precisely why we chose to title our event Moving Forward: Flagging the Way Forward,” Treso said. “Services like the Regina Women’s Community Centre and Sexual Assault Line provide supportive and confidential counselling services for sexual assault victims, so that they can truly move forward with their lives. We help victims deal with the impact from the trauma that they have experienced.”
Sexual assault is defined as unwanted sexual contact or intercourse without consent.
Boys and girls must be educated so they learn to treat each other with dignity and equality, said Abby Ulmer, a counsellor with the RWCC.
“It’s important that violence is not tolerated in any way, shape or form,” she said. “Sexual assault is definitely violence and we need to, as a community, do as much as we can to lessen the amount of violence that’s going on out there. No means no. It’s not OK to ever have sexual contact with a person against their will.”
The RWCC offers free counselling services to women who need support in dealing with issues surrounding sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, and relationship violence. Free counselling is provided to men who have experienced sexual assaults as adults.
At Family Service Regina, Tracey Smela is the program coordinator of Choices for Change – a program for men who have either been emotionally or physically abusive in their intimate partner relationships.
“It is a 20-week program where men learn skills, tools and knowledge to change abusive behaviours and then work on changing behaviours on a weekly basis where they are coming to group and doing checkins and helping each other make positive changes in their lives and relationships,” Smela said.
Of those who attend Choices for Change, 75 per cent of men are self referrals and 25 per cent are ordered by the court to attend.
“Abuse isn’t just physical, it’s emotional and sometimes emotional abuse leaves the most scars,” Smela said. “People think that because they’re not physically abusive, they’re not causing any impact to their partners. The reality is that emotional abuse – and there is a wide range of emotional abuse – does leave an impact on the partner and the kids.”
Sexual Assault Awareness in Victoria Park
Purple flags were planted to symbolize victims in Saskatchewan
From CJME, reported by Lisa Schick, Apr 28, 2012
The grass in Victoria Park is now a lot more colourful, but it’s not due to flowers.
The Regina Women’s Community Centre and Sexual assault Line (RWCC) helped plant purple flags in the ground Saturday afternoon for their Flagging the Way Forward for Sexual Assault Awareness event.
“We’ve utilized flags to be symbolic of the number of sexual assaults that happened in 2010, and that’s 1,139 victims of sexual assault,” said Robin Treso, a volunteer and board member of the RWCC.
Treso said that number is only a fraction of the real amount because it’s estimated 9 out of every 10 sexual assaults are not reported.
The RWCC used flags becuase they wanted something to illustrate how many victims there are and how much of a problem it is in the province.
Treso said sexual assault is a social epidemic in Saskatchewan.
“Level one sexual assaults are reported the highest rates in Saskatchewan across the country and we really need… to focus some light on that subject and really educate people.”
Treso said it’s important to make people aware of the problem becyase sexual assault violates all human rights.
The RWCC works with victims of sexual assault regularly, they have counselling services for women who have experienced sexual assault as adults and children, and men who have experienced sexual assault as adults. They also have a 24-hour emergency line.
“We really just want to help people through that healing process, ideally stopping sexual assault is what everybody wants, but the reality is that it does exist and we are here to help the community of Regina,” said Treso.
The event is part of this year’s National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.
This is the first year the RWCC has used flags, in previous years the theme was Crossing the Line and they strung up clotheslines in front of city hall.