victims

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

shIt seems everyone has a story where they have been victims of unwanted attention from coworkers, clients or employers.  Reflecting on my personal experiences, these comments stand out in particular:

“You always have the prettiest women working for you; where do you find them?” I was working in an accounting office when a man walked in and said this to my employer in front of me, he then looked at me as if I should have been flattered instead of disgusted.

A more recent example, a client had called for information that I did not have on hand so I asked if I could get his number to call him back and he replied with “If I give you my number, can I have yours?” I replied with a stern “no”. He was shocked and said “but you just responded with a no” – I’m not sure what he was expecting to be honest. Although some argue that this is merely “harmless humour”, others would strongly disagree.

Sexual harassment is common in most workplaces; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act will now include sexual harassment under its code to help protect employees. The proposition of the act is currently being referred to as Bill 132 and will include factors such as: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, sexual solicitation and advances made by a person in a position of power.

shhThe objective is to help victims who are too afraid to take action against such behaviour in their workplace due to power dynamics with the harasser. The idea is that the harasser should know or should reasonably know that such advances would be unwelcomed. The bill will allow the Ministry of Labour to order third-party investigations into sexual harassment complaints. Who will pay for this investigation? The employer, especially in circumstances where the investigation process is faulty or inadequate.

The bill is expected to become effective as of Sept. 8, 2016.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act will set out:

  1. Investigators responsible to oversee the investigation if the accused harasser is the employer;
  2. the means of maintaining confidentiality; and
  3. make conclusions drawn from the investigation available to both the complainant and alleged harasser

Employers would be required to carry out:

1. appropriate investigations;
2. make available written results; and
3. complete annual reviews of the sexual harassment complaints (at minimum)

Have you been harassed at work? What is your story? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Jian Ghomeshi: The Witnesses

jian.pngThe Jian Ghomeshi case seemed straightforward and simple when it began but Ghomeshi’s acquittal left most people shocked. What happened? If you are not familiar with the trial, please read my article “Jian Ghomeshi” first.

What was meant to be the foundation of the case, became the most damaging part of the case – the witness testimonies.

Three witnesses came forward alleging that Jian had assaulted them during intercourse. One victim shared her name while the other two remain anonymous under the publication ban. Each witness was critically analyzed on the stand and questioned about numerous details relating to the incident. This is how each witness held up, not in any particular order.

Witness 1 (Publication ban):

This victim told the police that she had not had contact with Ghomeshi after the attack; however, Jian’s defense lawyer then revealed an email sent by the victim to the accused after the alleged attack. The email included the victims phone number (for contact) and a picture of her in a string bikini.

In cross- examination, the victim stated that she did not recall sending the email but did remember drafting it. The victim also stated that she had sent Ghomeshi the email as a means to entice him to contact her so she could ask why he had assaulted her. The judge ruled that the witness was intentionally withholding information and was in breach of her obligation to tell the truth.

trial

Lucy being questioned by the defense attorney.

Witness 2:

Lucy DeCoutere guaranteed under oath that she had not maintained relations with Ghomeshi outside of a professional setting following the attack. Her statement was later refuted by the defense attorney who revealed a six-page love letter, an email stating that DeCoutere wanted to meet Ghomeshi again and pictures of the two cuddling in a park just days after the alleged attack. The email included language suggesting that she had enjoyed the sexual encounter with Ghomeshi. According to the judge, this revelation undermined DeCoutere’s argument of non-consent and portrayed her as less than truthful.

Witness 3 (Publication ban):

This witness stated like the others that she had been assaulted by Ghomeshi and had no contact with him after the fact. However, a day before the trial the victim came forward to admit that she had sexual relations with Ghomeshi after the attack. It is believed that she came forward with this information due to a news report stating that the defense had obtained email exchanges between the victims and Ghomeshi. After hearing the victims statement, the judge’s decision stated that he felt the victim would not come forward with the complete truth unless she was confronted with the evidence, making her testimony uncreditable.

awarenessWitnesses Speak- out:

When asked to defend their stances, the witnesses had much to say. One of the witnesses stated that she wasn’t sure what would come into discovery during the trial and hence was unprepared to determine what was relevant information to the case. The witness went on to state that some of the facts shared in court are irrelevant to the attack taking place. Another witness stated that she had expected the Crown to prepare her for court by asking her tough questions (similar to television dramas). In reality, the only onus for prosecutors is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that alleged offence did take place and put forth their best efforts to seek a conviction.  Witnesses stated that they felt vulnerable, humiliated and uncomfortable in court.

There is far more to this case and discussion, more posts will follow throughout the week.

Did this piece shed some light on the Ghomeshi case for you? If so, press “like” and subscribe!
Points of Discussion:

  1. What are your thoughts on the testimonies, the prosecution and defense?
  2. Do you believe the victims or Ghomeshi?
  3. Did this article highlight the complications of the case for you? Do you feel you understand the case a little better?

Judge Reviewed For Insensitive Comments to Sexual Assault Victim

sexual assaultRobin Camp, a court judge in Calgary, is now being reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council for his insensitive and condescending behaviour during a 19 year old homeless woman’s testimony of her sexual assault. The victims’ abuser, Alexander Scott Wagar, was acquitted of the charges. This decision was appealed and overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal. The judge who presided over the case in appeal court has serious concerns regarding how Robin Camp had handled the case and addressed the victim.

What exactly was said?

Judge Robin Camp made comments to the victim suggesting that she could have prevented the assault. Some of his comments included:  “Why didn’t you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you?” and “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”

He also argued and she had failed to explain “Why she allowed the sex to happen if she didn’t want it?” He then continued on to inform her that asking if the accused had a condom implied “an inescapable conclusion (that) if you have one I’m happy to have sex with you.”

The above-noted comments not only encourage victim-blaming but also discourage victims from seeking justice. Many victims fear persecution by judges and often do not want to proceed with a case due to publicity. Although the victims name may not be released, the accused person’s name is released. Thus, if the accused is a relative, spouse, significant other or family member often people who know the accused can often figure out who the victim is. This in return deters victims from proceeding with legal action beyond mediation and settlements due to their fear of stigma and victim-blaming.

Since the decision was overturned, Judge Camp is now undergoing gender sensitivity training and is forbidden to preside over similar cases. He has since then apologized to the court and to women for his comments.

How prevalent is sexual assault?

A quick overview of Canadian statistics suggests that sexual assault is far more common than most individuals may suspect. These statistics are based on victims who come forward with their assaults but the numbers are likely much higher as most victims do not come forward with their story.awareness

  • Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
  •  1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
  •  1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
  • 11% of women have physical injury resulting
  • 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
  • Over 80% of sex crime victims are women
  • 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
  • 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
  • 15% of sexual assault victims are boys under 16
  • half of all sexual offenders are married or in long term relationships
  • 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
  • 1/5th of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
  • 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim
  • 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home

Did any of these statistics surprise or alarm you? If so, press “like” and follow TSP for similar information.

Points of Discussion:

1. How do you feel about how the Judge Camp handled the case?

2. How do you feel about the disciplinary action taken against Judge Camp?

How Can You Identify A Sexual Predator?

sexual assaultHow can you identify a sexual predator? He’s young, lives alone, jobless, impoverished, prior criminal record and a stranger. Actually, this isn’t true. Fathi Rashid helps demonstrate how these stereotypes are misleading.

A 29 year old Toronto man named Fathi Rashid was arrested on October 27th, 2015 on account of 13 charges including:

  • Four counts of sexual assault.
  • Four counts of sexual interference.
  • Four counts of criminal harassment.
  • One count of invitation to sexual touching.

Rashid is not single, in fact he is married with two children one is eleven months and the other is four years old. He is also a stay at home dad, not your typical suspect according to stereotypes.

Rashid uses social media to lure girls with the alias’ Malik Gavin, D Sweeti, and Gavin D Sweetie. He asks girls to send him pictures over the internet and then pressures them to meet with him. He also drives around schools in the Rathburn Road and Renforth Drive area during dismissal times to target young girls between the age of 13 and 15. During his last sexual assault his eleven month baby was present in the car.  Who would suspect a stay at home father of two?

Rashid isn’t a teenager, he isn’t impoverished and he doesn’t have a prior criminal record. Although Rashid is a stranger to these girls when he meets them, strangers aren’t usually predators. In actuality, a sexual predator is more likely to be someone you know such as a family member or friend because it is easier to build a relationship of trust with the victim.  According to SexualAssault.ca Canadian statistics suggest:

  • 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victimawareness
  • half of all sexual offenders are married or in long term relationships
  • 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest

Many victims are scared to bring forth a case due to a lack of legal knowledge. Victims fear that they will be lost in the criminal justice system or it’s too late. Some simple legal facts to keep in mind include:

  • There is no statute of limitations on sexual assault cases. This means that there is no law that requires you to file your complaint within a given time period.  For instance, the incident may have occurred over a decade ago but you can still take action. Having said that, it is in the best interest of the victim to take action sooner than later as access to evidence; i.e. testimonies of witnesses (if any) is more reliable closer to the event.
  • Reporting your case to the police does not require you to take action. Victims will still receive aid to help them cope with the trauma of the assault including: face-to-face counselling, legal and medical services, personal safety planning and public education.
  • An unsolved case does not mean a closed case. Cases continue to proceed until there is an arrest, if more adequate evidence is brought to light at a later time an arrest can still be made.
  • Officers not laying charges does not suggest that they don’t believe you. In some cases there is simply not enough evidence to lay the charge and hence criminal proceedings aren’t possible.
  • A sexual assault case can range from a few months to two years due to the elaborate criminal justice system.
  • A sexual assault conviction can result in a multitude of outcomes including: house arrest, probation and jail time. The conviction depends on the facts of the case.
  • Victim services do not end upon the completion of the case. Victims are provided access to community support services upon completion of the case.

Source: ‘A Guide For Sexual Assault Survivors’ (Toronto Police Service, Victim Services Toronto ), ‘Dispelling The Myths About Sexual Assault’ (Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres)

It is essential to spread this information to help sexual assault victims learn about the resources available to them.  Please take the time to share this piece with your loved ones. Many victims of sexual abuse choose to remain silent about their experiences to avoid stigma and judgment.  Sharing this piece will allow them to get the help they need even if they choose not to reach out to others.

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Justice For Amanda Todd

bleech

This picture was created by one of her peers. Amanda was tagged in numerous photos similar to this one by her peers after leaving her school. In her video she elaborates on the difficulties she had moving on due to her peers tagging her in similar pictures such as this.

Amanda Todd was 15 when she took her life as a result of online bullying. She was blackmailed into exposing her breasts on webcam to an online predator and was stalked and bullied by him. She changed schools but he found her again and made a Facebook page with her friends showing her breasts as the profile picture. As a result, she was continuously bullied by peers. She committed suicide in October of 2012.  The Canadian justice system is trying to persecute the man allegedly behind this heinous crime, Aydin Coban, but is facing considerable difficulty due to international law regulations.

Aydin Coban resides in the Netherlands and was under suspicion for distributing child porn in Amanda’s case but was not formally charged with her death. Upon further investigation it was determined that Coban had been arrested in January of 2014 for harassing victims online and charges including indecent assault and production and dissemination of child pornography.  A few months later, the RCMP declared that he was also charged with five accounts including extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography in B.C in relation to Amanda Todd’s case. Coban has been suspected of blackmailing youth from all over the world to perform sexual acts over webcam. He is also facing sextortion and distribution of child pornography in a case of another Canadian youth.

Coban’s trial is currently in pretrial-motion hearings stage; the parties argue before a judge what evidence should be admissible, who can or cannot testify and if the case should be dismissed completely. It has been stated that Coban will not be charged in relation to non- Dutch victims (including Amanda). Christian van Dijk, Coban’s lawyer, has disclosed that Coban is on trial for 39 alleged victims. De Bruin, the Canadian lawyer for Todd has stated that Coban could be handed-over to Canadian authorities if the authorities choose to take that path. Conversely, Van Dijk has explained that extradition is not an option so long as the case continues in the Netherlands.

With the expansion and complexity of technology it has become difficult to determine the jurisdiction and legal implications of international crimes. Cybercrime and exploitation have become easier through the internet and various social media facets. Alternatively, these tools also serve to create social awareness and can be used as tool for victims to have a voice. For instance, Amanda Todd made a YouTube video explaining how she was exploited and bullied.

Countless youths are targeted and blackmailed by unknown faces online and then isolated by their peers when their story is brought to the public eye. Unfortunately, there are still individuals who suggest “don’t show your boobs online “is the solution but the topic is far more complex than nudity, legally and morally. Sometimes victims are unaware that photos are being taken of them or being shared. Predators often have information about the victim’s family, their residence, their school and more to manipulate their victims such was Amanda’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E .

What are your thoughts?

Do you believe Coban should have a Canadian trial?

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Too Intoxicated To Consent

According to the Criminal Code of Canada if a person is too intoxicated to give consent regardless of if they fail to resist or say no, it is considered rape. However, what exactly is “too intoxicated”? If a young woman is intoxicated but does not pass out is she able to consent? What part did she play in her sexual assault?

craft-beer-nightA young girl goes out partying, has too much to drink and passes out. She wakes up the next day naked and disoriented. She knows sexual activity took place but without her consent. Numerous sexual assault centres are hearing similar stories from teenage girls at an alarmingly increasing rate. What happens to a girl in these circumstances? The answer varies.

Evidence

If there were nude pictures taken of the woman, a video made of the incident or witnesses willing to testify, then the case has potential to succeed in court. Conversely, if there is a lack of such evidence, the police are often forced to inform the victim that the case won’t go far. If the accused is able to create reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, the court is more likely to drop the case against the accused.  Legally speaking, this is a sound decision as judges cannot convict someone when there are reasonable grounds to believe they did not commit the crime.

Juries and Judges

According to an article published in the Windsor Star, judges and juries often consider the “traditional standards” of how a woman should be behaving when partying or intoxicated when assessing the case. If the woman was forced to take drugs or alcohol, or was intoxicated without her knowledge, then the judge and jury are more likely to believe that she was raped.

According to Janine Benedet, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, society still supports the deep rooted mentality of “did she ask for it?” Victim-blaming can have countless damaging implications ranging from bullying to suicide. The infamous cases of Rehtaeh Parsons and Steubenville high school are clear examples of the impacts of victim blaming. It is no surprise that many victims refuse to come forward about sexual assault to avoid the stigma. There have been cases where victims have been held captive, sexually and physically assaulted but did not attempt to escape because they felt no one in society including their family would accept them.

Victim Blaming “Boys will be boys but girls should know better”.

Supporters of this mentality argue that boys do not understand the extent to which their actions can impact others but girls do; thus, girls are supposed to be more responsible and take necessary precautions.  In opposition, many argue that this mentality is not only outdated but degrading to males and females alike as it suggests that males can’t control themselves and females are responsible for being raped. Janine Benedet has argued that juries and judges setting unreasonable, practically impossible standards for women to obtain the justice they deserve.

Did you like this piece or find it informative? If so, please press “like” and subscribe!

Points of Discussion:

1. What are your thoughts?
Want to read the original article? Find it here: http://windsorstar.com/news/sexual-assaultintoxication-feature

Swatting

If you’re not familiar with swatting, it entails calling the police and pretending that there is an emergency (ie. a shooter endangering the lives of others). The police arrive on scene with masks, armed with rifles, and ready to address the threat head on. Recently, there have been two incidents of “swatting”, one within a home and another at a Brampton school. The impact of these calls is significant.

In the first incident, police officers barged into the residence of a family where a wife, husband and children were sleeping. The police came prepared with all their equipment based on a call claiming that a schizophrenic man had shot and killed the caller’s wife and was now hunting down his son.  There was significant damage to the home as officers had to break down the door to get in and potentially save the victims. The family was petrified and was left with a hefty bill for house repairs. The police department will not provide compensation for the damage since they were merely acting in accordance to protocol.  However, if the perpetrator(s) are caught, then they will be required to pay for the damages.

A second incident occurred on Monday, May 25, 2015 when someone called 911 and informed the police of an armed individual strolling Brampton streets looking to harm someone. The officers addressed the situation at the school and were forced to put an additional four schools on lock down to ensure everyone was safe. Parents, teachers, principals, authorities and students were all impacted by this one prank.

You may be surprised to learn that “swatting” isn’t a new phenomenon; in fact, it has been around for over a decade. Why haven’t we heard of it before? The authorities have attempted to keep this behaviour hidden from the public to avoid copycat behaviour. Authorities are continuing to remain tight lipped to avoid copycats. In the past, the perpetrators have often been teenage boys and were held responsible for their behaviour.

Earlier this month, a 17 year old boy from British Columbia pleaded guilty to 29 counts including: extortion, public mischief, false police reports and criminal harassment in respect to swatting matter. This youth had gone as far bragging about his prank on Twitter and challenging the RCMP to charge through his home door.  In 2014, a 16 year old boy from Ottawa was arrested and charged with 60 counts of instigating a dozen swattings across North America. The ultimate reward for these boys was gloating rights on social media – I’m not sure they still think it was worth it. One may argue that the punishment is too harsh for these boys.

One may even say “boys will be boys” however, this act goes far beyond just immature behavior. Victims of swatting have experienced heart attacks, polices officers have met with accidents on their way to these hoax emergencies, damages have been incurred by home owners, significant amounts of money is lost addressing these pranks and multiple people are impacted. These pranks have serious impact on others which is why there are criminal implications for their actions.

What are your thoughts?     

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