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Challenging the myths about sexual assault

from the May 2, 2011 issue of Connect

Challenging the myths about sexual assault

To mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month this May, Women’s College Hospital is addressing the myths and stereotypes that perpetuate sexual assault, particularly those that shift the blame from perpetrators to victims by finding reasons to condone and deny an assault.

“Women often feel at fault for being sexually assaulted,” says Harjeet Badwall, social worker at the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre (SADVCC) at Women's College Hospital. “It’s the myths around sexual assault that continue to perpetuate these feelings of blame, shame and judgment.”

To mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SADVCC is planning a series of activities throughout the month of May:

  • Wen-Do women’s self-defense classes starting May 3
  • An informative lobby display with facts about sexual assault
  • Lunch and Learn sessions, with topics including: sexual assault within marginalized groups – such as the homeless community and women involved in the sex trade – and internet safety for children and adults

“We’re also working with Toronto Police Services’ Sex Crimes Unit to develop material for our lobby display, which will be moved to Police Headquarters at the end of the month to increase awareness,” says Petra Norris, nurse examiner and outreach co‑ordinator at SADVCC.

In order to dispel harmful myths, it is important to reflect on our own values, biases and assumptions when responding to people who have experienced gender-based violence.

“Biases and assumptions can unintentionally emerge during interactions and be barriers to survivors/victims accessing or returning to services,” adds Norris.

Can you recognize the real facts and dispel the myths about sexual assault? Test your knowledge with the Sexual Assault Awareness Month quiz.

For more information about SADVCC, click here.

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