Blog

Survivor’s Hope is Supporting Local Food Banks and Tackling Period Poverty

We are partnering with community food banks to support the communities they serve in a new way during this time of economic slowdown.

“We recognize that the COVID-19 lockdown has put a lot of people out of work and families will be relying on food banks more than before” says Candice Perry, Reaching Out Coordinator for Survivor’s Hope. “We want to support our communities by helping to meet some immediate and basic needs.”

Survivor’s Hope will be sharing menstrual products with numerous local food banks and community resources thanks to the generosity of a social enterprise in BC called joni, which matches every purchase with a donation. Joni produces menstrual pads that are unbleached and biodegradable, making them a choice that is good for bodies and for the earth.

“Menstrual products can be expensive and are not always available at food banks,” says Stephanie Klassen, Executive Director of Survivors Hope. “These products are a necessity that is often overlooked and without them, the folks who menstruate miss out. We want to support the full participation of women and girls in society by making sure this need is met.”

Klassen said when she first contacted joni, the company was excited. “We asked about purchasing a few hundred boxes and they offered to match our purchase with donations and then some on top of that! We now have 1320 boxes of pads to share!”

Donations will be distributed to community food banks across north eastern Manitoba over the coming weeks. Information flyers about the increased risk of intimate violence during COVD-19 and the support available through Survivors Hope and Nova House, the shelter for survivors of intimate partner violence in Selkirk, will also be included. Nova House has launched a text line where a domestic violence counsellor can be reached 24/7 by texting 204-805-6682.

“There has been a worldwide increase in reports of violence at home. There is a lot of concern about isolation and violence in the home escalating as everyone is asked to stay at home,” said Klassen. “If there is an abusive person in the home, home is not always the safest place. We want to remind folks that there are local resources that are ready to help 24/7.”

Wear Denim on April 29!

By: Candice Perry

Since 1999, April 29 has been designated as Wear Denim Day, a day when people around the world wear denim in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. The movement caps off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and is the second sartorial statement in protest of sexualized violence, the first being Wear Teal Day on April 7 each year.

Wear Denim Day began when female Italian parliamentarians went on a “denim strike” in response to an Italian Supreme Court decision to overturn a rape conviction, in part based on the reasoning that the victim must have consented because the tight jeans she wore at the time of the attack could not have been removed “if she was fighting with all her force”.

Another factor in the decision was that the victim, an eighteen year old student at a driving school, attended a driving theory class after the attack. The student reported the rape in 1992, after the driving instructor sexually assaulted her during a driving lesson. The Supreme Court decision demonstrated how persistent myths about sexual assault are within a culture because it came about three years after Italy had modernized its sexual assault laws. [1] Similar scenarios have been played out over the ensuing decades around the world, including in Canada.

The myth that a “true victim” will ”fight with all her force” or “raise a hue and cry” [2] is common. In fact, neuroscientists have shown that commonly misunderstood reactions to sexual assault such as continuing a relationship with the perpetrator or freezing can be an automatic reaction. The commonly known “fight or flight response” is actually preceded by a “freeze response”, allowing the human being to devote all the senses to assess the danger of the perceived threat. Also, in crisis, the human brain relies on habits to stay safe, so it should be no surprise that women, who in our culture are socialized to appease others and help them save face, might react to sexual aggression by appeasing the attacker or maintain a friendly relationship with him afterwards.[3]

While the Italian “jeans defence” was met with vocal public backlash at the time, pervasive sexual assault myths continue to have harmful effects on survivors, the administration of justice, and society. When the people to whom survivors turn for support believe these myths, survivors feel re–victimized and alone. This complicates their recovery and may cause them to be reluctant to report sexual violence to the authorities. When investigators and judges believe these myths, perpetrators are never sanctioned and are allowed to victimize even more people. And when these myths are believed, pervasive stereotypes about women are allowed to result in bias and discrimination, thus enabling sexism to continue.

April 29 is Wear Denim day and April is Sexual Assault awareness Month, but we are all challenged to stand in solidarity with survivors by recognizing and refuting myths about sexual assault whenever and wherever they come up.

[1] Stanley, Allesandra. New  York Times, February 16, 1999

[2] Craig, Elaine. The Ethical Obligtions of Defense Counsel n Sexual Assault Cases, Osgoode Hall law Journal, Volume 51, Issue 2 (Winter 2014).

[3] Haskell, Lori, and Melanie Randall, The Impact of Trauma on Adult Sexual Assault Victims, 2019

Survivor’s Hope COVID-19 Statement UPDATED

Due to the recent updates of COVID-19, Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre will be implementing the following strategies immediately to ensure that the health and safety of the community, volunteers, staff and Board of Directors of Survivor’s Hope remains a priority.

The organization will remain operational and work hours will continue as status quo with an emphasis on slowing down the spread of the virus by completing the following strategies:

– The office in Pinawa will be closed indefinitely. Staff will check for phone messages and will be checking emails regularly while working from home.

– All SADI workshops and Girls’ Group Mentorship programming is not being delivered in schools but Program Facilitators are still available for alternative methods of information sharing.

– The SARAH Program will be available to provide advocacy over the phone but in-person advocacy at hospitals and RCMP detachments is suspended at this time. Immediate SARAH support by phone can be accessed by those who have the SARAH pager number using the same protocols as always.

– The SARAH workers on the schedule in April will not be called to attend call-outs anywhere in community. The person on pager duty will provide the advocacy and support by-phone using the SARAH phone. We will reassess this plan May 1.

With your support, we will inform the community of our indefinite program adjustments and encourage everyone to follow the advice of Public Health officials and stay home as much as possible. Our phone and Facebook communication will remain operational to assist with providing support.

As we become more informed on the virus in the coming days and weeks, the above mentioned strategies will be updated to best respond to the health and safety of the Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre team and the larger community. This is a reminder on how to best practice the values of Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre by treating one another with respect, helping with understanding and empathy, seeking to understand situations and being open minded.

Thank you for your understanding and compliance with these strategies, should you have any questions or concerns please feel free to ask.

Survivor’s Hope COVID-19 Statement

Due to the recent updates of COVID-19, Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre will be implementing the following strategies immediately to ensure that the health and safety of the community, volunteers, staff and Board of Directors of Survivor’s Hope remains a priority.

The organization will remain operational and work hours will continue as status quo with an emphasis on slowing down the spread of the virus by completing the following strategies:

– The office in Pinawa will be closed until April 10, at which time we will reassess. Staff will check for phone messages and will be checking emails regularly while working from home.

– All SADI workshops and Girls’ Group Mentorship programming is suspended until April 10, at which time we will reassess.

– The SARAH Program will be available to provide advocacy over the phone but in-person advocacy at hospitals and RCMP detachments is suspended at this time. Immediate SARAH support by phone can be accessed by those who have the SARAH pager number using the same protocols as always.

–  The SARAH workers on the schedule for the next two weekends will not be called to attend call-outs anywhere in community. The person on pager duty will provide the advocacy and support by-phone using the SARAH phone. We will reassess this plan April 10.

For staff, please inform your supervisor via phone call, text and/or email if applicable should you be experiencing symptoms and will not be able to work from home. It is notable that the Government of Canada has waived the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim. Link for more information is below.

With your support, we will inform the community of our indefinite program suspension and encourage everyone to follow the advice of Public Health officials and stay home as much as possible. Our phone and Facebook communication will remain operational to assist with providing support.

As we become more informed on the virus in the coming days and weeks, the above mentioned strategies will be updated to best respond to the health and safety of the Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre team and the larger community. This is a reminder on how to best practice the values of Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre by treating one another with respect, helping with understanding and empathy, seeking to understand situations and being open minded.

For more information on COVID-19 please review the following links:

https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/coronavirus/

https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/factsheets/coronavirus_selfisolation.pdf

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html

Health Links at 204-788-8200

Thank you for your understanding and compliance with these strategies, should you have any questions or concerns please feel free to ask.

Rural Third Party Reporting for Sexual Assault

Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre is able to process Third Party Reports of sexual assault and assist with applying for up to $2000 in counselling through Manitoba Justice Compensation for Victims of Crime.

In April 2018, the Winnipeg Police Service and Manitoba RCMP announced a new protocol that would allow people to report sexual assault to a community agency who then submits an anonymous report to law enforcement. Survivor’s Hope has partnered with Klinic Community Health Centre to make Third Party Reporting accessible in north eastern Manitoba.

“We have a team of well trained volunteers who already do a stellar job of providing crisis support in hospitals and RCMP detachments through the region,” said Stephanie Klassen, Reaching Out Program Coordinator for Survivor’s Hope. “And now those skilled helpers are ready to assist anyone who wants to let law enforcement know about their experience of violence but doesn’t necessarily want to make a full statement and press charges.”

Third Party Reports allow anyone who was the direct target of sexualized violence to document as much of the experience as they want and submit it to either RCMP or Winnipeg Police Service. These reports help to track violent offenders and may provide additional information on other cases.

The Compensation for Victims of Crime Program through Manitoba Justice is now accessible to those who make Third Party Reports. Up to $2000 towards counselling can be accessed by completing an application form.

Those interested in more information about Third Party Reports are encouraged to contact Survivor’s Hope 204-753-5353 or email.

“We wanted to share this information during 16 days of activism which take place Nov 25 – Dec 10 each year,” said Klassen. “The ability to make Third Party Reports is the result of the work of activists in Manitoba who are constantly working to provide better care to those who have experienced sexualized violence.”

Education for Judges?

judge-desk-gavel

Manitoba’s provincial government recently decided to not make any changes to the training judges are required to attend regarding sexual assault law. This is in spite of other provinces, like Ontario, enforcing training for all new judges (some would like the training to be mandated to all existing judges).

Sexual assault stands out as statistically unique in Canada’s courts, and this is not just a Canadian problem. According to the most recent General Social Survey, only one in twenty victims of sexual assault perpetrated by a stranger are reported to law enforcement, compared to one in three other crimes resulting in victimization as defined by the survey. We know that more than half of all sexual assaults are committed by partners or acquaintances, and these are even less likely to be reported to law enforcement.

All of that is part of sexual assault cases having the very lowest conviction rate of all violent crimes tried in Canada. Only 0.3% of sexual assault incidences result in a conviction. In fact, of the cases that actually end up before a judge, fewer of them result in a conviction than any other violent crime.

Victims of sexual assault also report higher rates of PTSD and disruption in their lives than victims of other crimes. One in four victims of sexual assault experience difficulty carrying out regular daily activities after an assault. And when all is said and done, one in three women and one in six men will have an experience of sexualized violence.

Let’s sum this all up by saying three things:

  1. Sexual assault happens a lot.
  2. The vast majority of people who commit sexual assault face no consequences for their actions.
  3. A big chunk of our population is left reeling because of sexual assault.

Maybe we could ALL use some more education about sexual assault and consent and how to prevent this shockingly common tragedy. This data should inspire a revolution in the public conversation about gender, sex, and relationships. If it’s money that we care about, the cost of prevention can’t be anywhere as high as the cost of sexual assault. Educational programs like our SADI program should be expanded and brought to every school!  I bet that would include some future judges!

Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Abuse Disclosures

On June 15, 2016, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) celebrates its 10th anniversary.  Started in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the day is set aside to bring global awareness about the mistreatment of older persons.

Elder abuse, according to Manitoba’s chapter of WEAAD, is defined as “any act or lack of action by someone in a position of trust that harms the health or well-being of an older person.” Forms of abuse can include, but are not limited to, psychological, financial and sexual violence, as well as neglect.

In Manitoba it is estimated that between 4-10% of people over the age of 60 are victims of elder abuse.  It is also estimated that only 1-in-5 older adults disclose their experience of abuse to others, so the rates of abuse may actually be much higher.

The mistreatment of an older adult has severe consequences.  It can lead to mental health concerns, social isolation, and even premature death. Preventing elder abuse and responding to it in a timely and appropriate manner can save lives.

Being able to spot warning signs that an older adult is being abused can play an important role in helping someone seek help.  Signs that someone is being abused include:

  • Anxiety and fear
  • Social Isolation
  • Depression
  • Confiding in you about the abuse

Another layer of complexity is that for some older adults there may be a previous history of abuse.  Someone who has managed to cope in their adulthood with a traumatic past may find that it is harder to cope as an older person.  The process of aging itself, with the loss of independence and the onset of health complications, can have a significant impact on someone with a history of trauma.  Signs that someone is being affected something traumatic from their past include the same warning signs that someone is being abused: heightened anxiety or fear, depression, social isolation, and confiding in trusted ones about past abuse.

If an older adult discloses to you about past or current abuse, your response does not actually change. Talking about abuse, past or present, can be a very difficult and vulnerable process.  If someone tells you about abuse they have suffered, one of the most important things to do is to listen and believe them.

Another important action is to support the person.  Support can look like many things, but it is always good to be informed about what resources are available to a victim of violence.  If you suspect someone is in imminent need of safety, call 9-1-1.  If you are an older person who has experienced abuse, or a concerned person seeking more information, Manitoba has a Seniors Abuse Support Line that you can contact 24/7 at 1-888-896-7183.  For more information on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day you can visit their webpage, http://www.weaadmanitoba.ca/

Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre provides crisis intervention, support, and information to survivors and secondary victims of sexualized violence in north-eastern Manitoba. They run workshops in schools throughout the region that aim to prepare youth for strong, healthy, and respectful relationships. They also operate a drop-in support service on Monday afternoons in Powerview-Pine Falls. For more information, visit www.survivors-hope.ca or call 204-753-5353.

Sexual Violence Myths Getting Good Press?

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and there are two recent news stories that raise some very important points about sexual violence.

It is not often that we hear satisfying stories of closure and justice in regards to sexual violence. These types of crimes are fraught with influence from cultural myths and misunderstandings about what is happening when sexual violence occurs.

We have heard a Manitoba judge say that sexual assault is actually just a “clumsy Don Juan” trying to get lucky and accidentally assaulting someone. It is a myth that sexual assault is rooted in the desire for sex.

We have watched the Ghomeshi trial in which every action the survivors took after the assaults was given far more weight than the actual assaults. It is a myth that all sexual assault survivors will act in the same manner if they were really sexually assaulted.

Two recent stories have highlighted more myths about sexual violence.

There is currently a lawsuit against the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba that alleges the church created an atmosphere that made it easy for a pastor to lure, groom, and sexually assault a child in his congregation.

This lawsuit highlights myths about sexual violence by shattering the usual myths. This lawsuit is trying to get to the bottom of why sexual violence happens and the conditions that promote silencing victims. In a word – power.

It is not often that we see legal action taken against the structures that promote inequality or injustice, but this lawsuit is attempting to do just that. It’s not that churches promote inequality and injustice, but when people, particularly children, are told that the church leader is “chosen by God,” that leader has a lot of power and authority which may be easily abused. More safeguards are required in these settings to hold leaders accountable and encourage anyone who may be a victim to trust their own experience and feel safe to speak up.

There are many groups, inside and outside faith communities, working on and discussing these problems. Especially relevant to the faith community involved in this lawsuit is the organization Our Stories Untold which is working to end the silence around sexual violence in churches.

Another story that has recently highlighted myths by breaking them came out of a denied conviction appeal. A teacher was convicted in 2013 of sexually assaulting a female student by repeatedly groping her at school. He tried to appeal his sentence on the grounds that the victim had not come forward soon enough; she had not reported the first incident on the first day it took place.

The Court responded in a refreshingly informed way by saying that the convict’s argument was not evidence that the assaults never took place. The Court acknowledged that the power the teacher had over the student played a significant role in the assaults and in the student’s response, which likely included some form of Sexual Assault Trauma.

At its core, sexual violence is about power, not sex. Sexual contact is simply the weapon of choice. Sexual violence comes from a disregard for consent which essentially entails dehumanizing someone, using them as an object so the perpetrator feels powerful and gets what they want.

Too often we hear myths about sexual violence mistaken for truth. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a time to become better informed, debunk myths, and create safer spaces for everyone in our communities.

For more information on a variety of topics related to sexual violence, visit the Links page of our website.

Preventing More Than Murder-Suicide: Early Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, 2014 ended with some brutal cases of domestic violence.  In Edmonton, a woman and seven of her family members and friends were killed by her ex-husband before he shot himself. In Fort Worth, Texas, a woman and her two daughters were killed by her ex-boyfriend who then killed himself. In BC, spousal homicide was at a five-year high in 2014.

Edmonton Police Chief, Rod Knecht, told reporters that the case in his city was an incident of “domestic violence gone awry.” Let’s be clear – there are zero cases of domestic violence that “go well”, so there cannot be cases that go “awry”. Every single incident of domestic violence is a relationship gone awry, a partner gone awry.

Domestic violence happens in homes across Canada every single day. At any given time, there are nearly 10,000 women and children in emergency shelters across the country. It happens an awful lot, but this is no excuse for us to start thinking “mild domestic violence” is acceptable.

One news report listed some warning signs of a potential murder-suicide – “…obsessive behaviour, depression in the killer, and an escalation of violence prior to the murder.” All of these “warning signs” are more than just red flags – they clearly indicate a situation that needs to be addressed. This is like saying a house engulfed in flames is at risk of burning down!

Long before we check for the warning signs of mass murder and suicide, there are so many other concerns that ought to be addressed. Depression and violent behaviour should never go unchecked. Those are not signs of a problem; those are large problems in and of themselves!

Abusive relationships are about an imbalance of power and one partner controlling the other. The partner that uses abusive behaviour is solely responsible for their behaviour and the victimized partner does not deserve to be treated poorly.

In SADI workshops with grade 12 students, we discuss these warning signs that someone may use abusive behaviour:

  • constantly checking up on partner
  • telling the partner what to wear, what to do, who to spend time with
  • excessively jealous, accuses the other of cheating or flirting
  • showing up unannounced
  • humiliating the person
  • teasing
  • lack of communication
  • inability to listen
  • no trust
  • possessiveness
  • no balance or equality
  • lack of respect
  • put downs
  • big mood swings
  • makes you feel nervous (like you are walking on eggshells)
  • criticizes you
  • threatens to hurt you

All of these warning signs indicate that one partner is not concerned about building a healthy or respectful relationship. If you see your partner, someone else’s partner, or even if you see yourself engaging in some of these behaviours, it is a good idea to re-evaluate the relationship. Everybody deserves to be in a healthy and respectful relationship – EVERYBODY! We are setting the bar way too low if we only try to prevent murder-suicide. We can prevent all forms of domestic violence.

There is a toll-free number in Manitoba that you can call 24/7 to talk to a trained counsellor about any relationship that you suspect is abusive 1-888-977-0007. Emergency shelters are always available to anyone who feels unsafe in their relationship, long before you are worried about an impending murder-suicide.

Peace and War Begin at Home: Our Shared Responsibility to End Violence

nflRecent NFL news has been less about impressive plays and game outcomes and more about family violence and league policies. If you have not heard, the NFL and some players have been getting a lot of bad press lately.  A video was released of Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice punching his fiancé out cold and dragging her unconscious from an elevator. Evidence and allegations of child abuse recently came to light after Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson ‘spanked’ his child with a tree branch leaving open wounds and welts over the boy’s legs and genitals.

These occurrences of family violence are unfortunately common in North America. In Canada, one in six women will experience physical violence from an intimate partner and nearly one in three Canadians experience some form of abuse as a child. The Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson stories are not unique. These stories are most certainly being played out in every community to some extent.

There is a lot of debate about how the NFL ought to respond to these incidents. The NFL decided to indefinitely suspend Ray Rice once the video became public, which was long after the NFL knew about the incident. Adrian Peterson was suspended for just one game.

It should be striking to us that if Adrian Peterson had taken the same action against anyone other than his own child (someone else’s child, his wife, his father, a total stranger) there would be no debate about the issue. It would very clearly be assault. If Ray Rice had punched out someone with whom he was not in a relationship, there wouldn’t have been as much wavering on the consequences. Why is it that the most intimate of relationships seem to come with permission to commit crimes against each other?

And what if these events involved the employees of a different workplace? The alarming stats regarding family violence make it clear that the NFL is not the only ‘employer’ dealing with this issue. Would your employer suspend an employee who knocked out his wife? Would there be support for someone who hit their children with branches, leaving them bloodied and bruised? Who is included in the list of responsible parties when families become violent?

In Canada, when it comes to child protection, every single one of us is responsible. Every adult is expected by law to report suspected child abuse to an authoritative body such as Child and Family Services. Children are dependent on adults for nearly everything in their lives and we are all a part of the village that is required to raise them to adulthood.

Many families will experience violence firsthand, but even more families will be bystanders. We are not required by law to report violence between adults, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be responsible bystanders and lend a helping hand where it is needed. There are countless ways we can all be positive influences on the people around us. Our input can range from being examples of healthy families, or talking to our friends when we think they’re in trouble or causing trouble. In worst case scenarios, we can call 911 when we witness an assault.

Our intimate relationships should not be places of violence. There should not be silent permission to treat our partners and our children far worse than we treat our friends or even strangers. No matter what the situation is around us, we can all take some responsibility for ending violence. If peace and war begin at home, let’s make sure we are all promoting peace with our own families.

If you or someone you know is in danger, please contact the appropriate resources.