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 30+ community-based Anglophone sexual assault centres across 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. In 2021, Statistics Canada found that reported sexual assault rates were at their highest since 1996.
These trends reflect the experiences of community-based sexual assault centres across the province: in 2022, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) noted that in 2021, its member centres reported responding to over 37,500 crisis calls (phone, text, online chat) while in 2019, this number was 23,000. Centres also saw over 6400 people in counselling (individual and group)—up from 5400 in 2019.
Comprehensive community awareness and prevention education is provided by Ontario sexual assault centres across Ontario communities. In addition, OCRCC leads Draw The Line, a bystander intervention campaign on sexual violence prevention. The campaign challenges common myths about sexual violence, shares sexual violence prevention strategies, and equips bystanders with information on how to intervene safely and effectively.
We believe that everyone has a role in preventing sexual violence
Businesses and people who serve alcohol have a role. Opportunities to intervene in potentially violent situations – and to support those most at-risk of sexual violence – exist, and we can support people in our communities to know what to do.
For these reasons, OCRCC supports “Safe Night Out” Bill 124, An Act to amend the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act respecting training on sexual violence and harassment. If successful, the Bill will change the Liquor Licence and Control Act so that it requires:
- The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to develop an evidence-based trauma-informed sexual violence and harassment prevention training program that includes: understanding alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assault, and consent; recognizing the signs that someone may be at risk of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault; how to safely intervene when someone is at risk
- That every person who holds a liquor license take the training, and also makes them
responsible for ensuring that everyone involved in the sale or service of liquor, in security, or in
supervising also completes the training.
That every establishment have a sexual violence and harassment policy that sets out how
servers, security and supervisors are to address incidents, and includes information about
supports and services available in the community.
If successful, the Bill will also:
- Add workplace sexual violence explicitly to the definition of workplace violence in the Occupational Health and Safety Act; provide a definition of workplace sexual violence; require all employers to take approved training on workplace sexual harassment; and to ensure every person in the workplace receives approved training.
Education and training prevents sexual violence
Prevention education and training on sexual violence can reach employer and employee populations, raising important conversations they may not otherwise be having at home, at work or amongst their peers. Education and training contributes to the prevention of sexual violence by:
- Supporting people to understand their rights
Supporting people to understand where to go for support and information in their community
Identifying the continuum of sexual violence (from unwanted sexualized jokes to harassment to
- Supporting people to challenge sexual violence misconceptions
- Knowing the laws concerning sexual assault and consent
- Knowing who is most likely to be targeted for sexual violence. In Canada:
- rates of sexual assault were higher among 15 to 24 year olds than any other ages
- young women from marginalized racial, sexual and socioeconomic groups are more
vulnerable to being targeted for sexual harassment and sexual assault
- TransPulse found that trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed
Education can also help others learn how to respond to others and direct them to helpful supports in the community. Research indicates that many survivors of sexual violence wish to talk about their experiences, but fear the reactions of others. When survivors receive a positive response, the benefits of talking about one’s experience of sexual violence are “associated with improved psychological health, increased comfort, support, and validation, and desired outcomes such as penalizing the perpetrator and protecting others”
Importantly, OCRCC recommends that all prevention education and training on sexual violence be developed and led by community-based experts on sexual violence prevention: for example, community-based sexual assault centres, Make It Our Business (Make It Our Business provides information and education to help employers and other workplace stakeholders to meet their obligations under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act), the Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children (CREVAWC), and other longstanding community-based experts on gender-based violence prevention.
Over the last few decades, much progress has been made in creating practices to prevent sexual violence and to remind survivors of their rights. Businesses and people who serve alcohol have been – and can be – an integral part of this. Intentional prevention education and training will support people working in this sector to respond to sexual violence with greater confidence. Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres OCRCC supports “Safe Night Out” Bill 124, An Act to amend the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act respecting training on sexual violence and harassment. Together, we will make a difference.
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) is a network of 30+ community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, go to https://sexualassaultsupport.ca/get-help/.
Writer and Advocate, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)