OCRCC supports a Just Recovery from COVID-19

Who we are

The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) is an equity-seeking network of community-based rape crisis/sexual assault centres across Ontario, committed to leading social transformation that prevents and eliminates sexual violence. Our membership includes 29 community-based Anglophone sexual assault centres across Ontario (our Francophone sister Coalition is Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF).

About the Just Recovery Ontario campaign

The Just Recovery Ontario campaign came about when a number of community organizations from across Ontario got together and shared their concerns regarding how many equity-seeking groups have been particularly harmed by COVID 19; and how much our social safety net has failed so many. OCRCC supports the Just Recovery campaign messages, and joins to ask government and policy makers for clear and specific action.

We have witnessed how quickly the government responded to the pandemic, by enacting a number of social programs and benefits which, though not perfect, offered much needed support. We have seen how effective government action is possible, when it is made a priority. We now need to ensure that our social safety net is repaired and strengthened for the long term so that historic inequities that have been exacerbated during the pandemic do not continue. At OCRCC, this also means considering the needs of survivors of violence, marginalized communities in Ontario, and the ways in which these populations have been impacted.

About the need: Survivors of sexual violence are reaching out more than ever[1]

Since 2014, sexual assault centres across Ontario have seen a significant influx of new referrals, crisis line calls and intake for counselling services. Awareness of sexual violence is increasing —a significant and positive achievement.  Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more survivors of gender-based violence were reaching out for support than ever before. For example: 

  • While shelters for women and children experiencing violence provide a critical – and often life-saving – service in our communities, many were at their limit in resources and shelter space[2] well before the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • In one year, Ontario Sexual Assault Centres took over 48,000 Crisis Line calls, supported over 16,000 individual survivors of sexual violence; and provided 3000 prevention education workshops to youth and others in the community[3].
  • With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in recent years, community-based sexual assault centres have seen a significant upswing in calls, leading to wait lists for supportive counselling to survivors of sexual assault across Ontario.
  • Rates of gender-based violence are high in Canada, pandemic or not: on average, every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner[4]
  • In 2020, Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH) notes that over 35 women and girls in Ontario died in Ontario as a result of violence at the hands of a past or current intimate partner, or someone known to them.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, demands for service continue. Crisis line calls have increased. Many survivors of violence are impacted by a lack of adequate income supports, safe and fair workplaces, and access to affordable basic services like child care, transportation, digital access and eldercare.

Experiencing violence often exacerbates survivors’ financial and material realities: a Justice Canada study examined the economic cost of violent crime and found that by far the largest single cost — $4.8 billion in the year of the study — was attributed to sexual assault and other sexual offences. The “victims bear the greatest burden of the [financial] impacts [of sexual crimes], much of it intangible, and family, friends and employers can also be burdened” by costs and lost wages, the study shared[5]. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario have been helping support-seekers with little or no income to access basic practical supports, such as providing grocery store and food vouchers.

We note that the pandemic is also differentially and disproportionately impacting people of color in North America, both in incident and death rates. This reality too is connected to systemic realities that existed well before the pandemic crisis itself— systemic inequities that inform where we live, how we live, and the conditions of our employment, work-spaces and affordable housing.

OCRCC endorses the Just Recovery Ontario campaign

Aligning with Just Recovery, we believe that federal and provincial governments must commit to the following five steps to build a recovery that addresses systemic inequities, and works for everyone. The recovery plan must:

  • Create adequate and accessible income supports
  • Ensure decent work with fair pay, benefits & protections in safe workplaces
  • Expand and preserve safe, adequate and affordable housing
  • Invest in access to basic services like child care, transportation, digital access and eldercare
  • Establish tax policies that make sure people with the highest incomes pay their fair share

We reach out to ally individuals, and organizations who work closely with and for equity-seeking people. Like us, you may be thinking about a just and equitable recovery all, not just for the more privileged.

Be a part of the Just Recovery campaign

Here’s how:

  1. Endorse the campaign message. Go to Just Recovery Ontario to learn more (email them to join)
  2. Reach out to your local MP and MPP about these issues (be sure to reference the Just Recovery “asks”, above!)
  3. Find your MPP/their email here: click this link and scroll down
  4. Find your MP (federal) here: click this link
  5. Share this information with your contacts, so this initiative spreads as far and wide as possible. Some really easy tools and resources from Just Recovery can be found here.

We have been through a lot with COVID-19. Let’s work together to ensure that the lessons learned from this pandemic are put to good use, and that we create a society where nobody gets left behind.

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) is a network of community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario. Member centres have been supporting survivors of sexual violence and offering prevention education since 1977: services include counselling to survivors of recent and historical sexual violence, accompaniment to hospital, police and court, advocacy and crisis support. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, go to sexualassaultsupport.ca/support.

[1] CBC News. February 10, 2020. Sexual assault centres struggle with limited funding as more women come forward to say #MeToo. Online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sexual-assault-centres-funding-services-1.5450099

[2] Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH). Posted on Jan 24, 2020. Dying to Get In and No Way to Get Out: 2020 Pre Budget Submission. Online: https://www.oaith.ca/news-media/news-blog.html/2020/01/24/dying-to-get-in-and-no-way-to-get-out-2020-pre-budget-submission/

[3] This information was compiled by Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres in 2019, with data provided by 23 member centres. Online: https://sexualassaultsupport.ca/ontario-sexual-assault-centres-what-we-do/

[4] Gunraj, Andrea and Jessica Howard for Canadian Women’s Foundation. April 9, 2020. Why is the COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to More Gender-Based Violence?. Online: https://canadianwomen.org/blog/covid-19-pandemic-gender-based-violence/

[5] Gabor, Thomas, Ph.D. for Public Safety Canada. 2015. Costs of Crime and Criminal Justice Responses. https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/2015-r022/index-en.aspx.

PDF file: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/2015-r022/2015-r022-en.pdf

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