BC Women’s Hospital Foundation and the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) have launched their three-year research project, Changing Perceptions: Reimagining Sexual Assault to Better Support Survivors, with the goal of advancing best practices to better support survivors of sexual assault to disclose and access much needed services. This community-based participatory research project, funded by the Vancouver Foundation, aims to shift public discourse around sexual assault in BC, leading to less victim-blaming and more trauma-informed responses across multiple systems – particularly in health and justice.
Never before has public awareness about sexual assault in Canada been so high. Recent high profile court cases across Canada highlight concerns over how sexual assault is handled by professionals and society. Sexual assault is the most serious of all violent crimes measured by Canada’s General Social Survey; however, data suggests that this crime is not taken seriously in our society. Survivors of sexual assault often do not feel comfortable or supported in disclosing or reporting what happened to them. This is evidenced by data showing that, of the approximately 70,000 self-reported incidents of sexual assault reported in BC in 2014, only 2,341 sexual assaults were reported to police. Survivors also face numerous barriers in disclosing sexual assault. Choosing not to disclose a sexual assault may have harmful and lasting health and social consequences for survivors, their families, and communities.
Project researchers will be working with survivors, community-based organizations, and sexual assault response systems to investigate how people in positions of power influence public perceptions of sexual assault, and how public perceptions in turn influence sexual assault survivors’ willingness to disclose and access support.