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SaffronCentreLtd83 karma

Hi there, Ryan here, this is a fantastic question.

The first thing I'll say is that I am not an expert on Sexual Assault Examination Kits (SAEK's). If you want all of the right information check out the She Matters Silenced report on SAEK availability in Canada here https://www.shematters.ca/silencedreport.

One of the big problems is that SAEK availability is not what it should be, only so many hospitals have them and have the staff trained to do them.

Another thing is that a lot of the time they don't get processed because the survivor doesn't want them to be processed. In some parts of Alberta we have a 3rd option program that allows the survivor up to a year to have the kit processed.

I wish I had more information for you on this, but the Silenced report definitely talks about some of the institutional problems with SAEK's as it stands right now.

SaffronCentreLtd77 karma

Hi there, Ryan here, so this is a good question. I will start off by saying that yes the laws have changed over time, in Canada at least, though not to the point where they should have. They have come a long way in the last 50 years, but haven't caught up with the #MeToo movement. In Canada, sexual assault is define as an assault committed in circumstances of a sexual nature, such that the sexual integrity of the victim is violated. This is fancy legal speak from supreme court decisions, and the criminal code. Basically it follows the guidelines for assault, but applies them in a sexual context. It also relies pretty heavily on an understanding of consent, which is legally defined in the criminal code as well.

So realistically, it's a fairly broad legal definition. There isn't a requirement for duration, frequency, where the contact occurred, or physical contact at all. The important part to understand is that sexual assault is violation of consent. Consent cannot be obtained with threats, fear, force, lying, manipulation, coercion, incapacitation or unconsciousness. It has to be fully informed, and is only given by an enthusiastic and affirmative yes.

Sexual harassment is defined in the Alberta Human Rights Act as any unwelcome sexual behaviour that adversely affects or threatens to affect an individuals sense of safety. It's different in that it's more like bullying in a sexual context. Harassment would be things like sexually suggestive comments or jokes, displaying sexual imagery, leering/whistling.

Unfortunately, there is not one clear thing or definition for sexual assault. Unfortunate, because of myths and stereotypes a lot of people think of it as something that a stranger does in a back alley, but that is rarely the case. Most of the time it happens in someone's home, or a commercial building of some kind. And most of the time it's done by someone the survivor knows in some way. The problem with our legal definition is that it implies that physical force is required, but coercion and incapacitation are much more common tools. These myths and stereotypes make it very difficult for this crime to be prosecuted in the court system.

The most important thing to remember is consent, and what actually constitutes consent. Understanding that the enthusiastic and affirmative yes is required goes a long way towards recognizing what is and isn't appropriate.

Thanks for your question! Feel free to follow up.

SaffronCentreLtd60 karma

Hi! Thanks for your question. There are a lot of things that governments can do to support the prevention and ending of sexual violence.

One of the biggest things is public education, normalizing the teaching of things like boundaries, healthy relationships, and consent go a long way towards prevention. Especially when we can teach it to young people. Often perpetrating behaviours can start when people are really young, and in a lot of cases they don't get any course correction. Governments should encourage and take an active role in implementing sexual health education, because teaching people these skills can help a lot.

Another key part of what governments can do is making changes in the justice system. The reality is that perpetrators often commit and act of sexual violence more than once, and if these repeat offenders aren't stopped it can lead to further offending. Looking into ways to stop repeat offenders from slipping through the system would be another good step for governments to take.

SaffronCentreLtd37 karma

Ryan here, great question!

I like that you said case by case basis, because you're right, as it stands that is how we deal with sexual assault: when they come up. Whether someone goes and gets counselling for their experience, or if they engage with the legal system, we are only able to provide support once it has already happened.

So prevention is super important. The best way to prevent this from happening is through education. Consent education is the most proximal solution because we can directly get at the issue in question. However more distal things like boundaries and healthy relationships are also really important for people to learn. As well as communication skills, conflict resolution skills, bystander intervention, and more. These things may not seem to be related, but when people have effective skills in all of these areas, it prevents a lot of the circumstances that allow sexual violence to take place.

It's especially important to address this with children and young people, and get these lessons taught early. Especially boys, who suffer from some very harsh socialization growing up which teaches them to be dominant and forceful, and this contributes to why over 95% of perpetrators of sexual assault are men. Of course, this isn't a general rule, but it's a very important factor.

As far as laws go, it's very hard to mandate some of these things. One thing that would be helpful is changing the way sexual assault is defined in the criminal code, and teaching it better than we currently do. Moreover, it's important for these lessons to be made a part of the school curriculum so that we can guarantee that people are getting these lessons.

Thanks for the question!

SaffronCentreLtd35 karma

Ryan here!

So I just want to clarify that the attitude you are referring to is turning men away because some people take their abuse less seriously.

If that is the case, we absolutely do not take that attitude. The reality is that anyone can be sexually assaulted, and who you are doesn't determine your worthiness to receive support.

Saffron doesn't turn people way based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other part of someone's identity.

If men are looking for support, they can absolutely seek out services like the Saffron Centre. We are a member of the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services, and I don't believe any of the other member organizations have requirements about identity either.

I understand though that it can be difficult for men to seek out services, because of all of the socialization they get about being stoic, and the attitudes you mentioned. I would encourage men to seek support service despite this, or if it would be more comfortable seek out a support group. There are groups specifically for men to talk about things like this such as Men Mentoring Men (M3) which is based in New Jersey, but has an online presence.

Saffron is specialized in trauma therapy for survivors of sexual violence, but if coming to a centre like us is uncomfortable, men could also seek out services from a private practice therapist.

Ultimately, men should not feel like they can't ask for help and they need to know that they are equally deserving of support.