Everything but a clear ‘yes’ means ‘no.’
That’s the message those who work with sexual violence survivors want people to understand.
“I think there are some abusers who don’t realize what they’re doing is abuse, and some people experiencing abuse, who don’t know what it is,” said Margaret Mauger, a trauma counsellor at the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre (CSAC). “There are some people who don’t know they have the right to say no in many situations.
“We need to get facts and accurate information out there.”
She said people often don’t feel they have the right to stop sexual activity once it’s begun or if they’re dealing with someone they’re in a relationship with.
Staff at the centre find the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have encouraged more people to talk.
“It’s a positive step forward, having so many survivors coming forward,” said Kendra MacKinnon, executive director at the CSAC. “They can get help and they’re letting abusers know they’re not going to accept the way they’ve been treated.”
Survivors often experience shame, mistrust, depression, anxiety, addictions, self-harm, and sexual dysfunction. Many develop eating disorders and some attempt suicide.
“We need to up the game on what to look for,” said MacKinnon. “We’ve come a long way but there’s a lot further to go. We need a cultural and societal shift.
"Sexual abuse is more about power and control than sex.”
Tracey-Dorrington Skinner, executive director at The Lotus Centre, a resource centre for women, said they often have people coming in who have questions about whether something is abuse.
“If it makes you feel your self-esteem or confidence is impacted, it’s abuse,” she said. “It doesn’t have as much impact if people seek assistance early so we encourage people to seek help. We believe survivors. If we don’t, they won’t tell their stories.
“We are seeing a lot of younger people now. These are people who were assaulted when they were nine to 12 and are coming in when they’re in their twenties.”
She said although most reports say one-in-four females has been a target of sexual abuse, she thinks the numbers are much higher.
Almost 90 per cent of known sexual assaults were against women and girls, with those aged 15 to 24 at the greatest risk, but the CSAC sees clients of all genders.
Information on sexual violence, including printable posters and online training, can be found on the CSAC website at http://www.colchestersac.ca/ or at Break the Silence- breakthesilencens.ca
The CSAC can be contacted at 902-897-4366 or email@example.com . The centre would also like to hear from anyone interested in becoming an engaged board member.
Information on the various programs offered by The Lotus Centre can be found online at
http://thelotuscentre.net/. People can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 902 895 4295.
Human trafficking to be discussed at public meeting
A group of women are hoping more people will add their voices, as they speak out about human trafficking and sexual abuse.
“We need to change the culture and the way we think,” said Linda MacDonald, of Persons Against Non-State Torture. “Human trafficking is taking place in Truro, in Nova Scotia, in Canada and across the world. We need change because right now, we’re always picking up the pieces.”
Jeanne Sarson, also with Persons Against Non-State Torture, said an important step would be arresting those who are buying sex and then naming them publicly.
The women would also like to establish a safe house in the area and invite anyone who can help with this to contact them.
The public meeting will take place at the Truro Fire Hall at 6 p.m. on May 23.