FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Sexual violence: The victims speak, the numbers speak, and the government doesn’t listen to either one

Sexual violence: The victims speak, the numbers speak, and the government doesn’t listen to either one

On October 20 last, the Government of Québec launched its Stratégie gouvernementale pour prévenir et contrer les violences sexuelles 2016 – 2021 (Government strategy for preventing and counteracting sexual violence 2016-2021). There is no doubt that this announcement comes in the wake of the assaults at the Université Laval, as well as the Sklavounos affair. This government position seems to be more of an opportunistic measure, and I find it scandalous that these sad incidents had to happen before the government finally decided to act.

Must there always be victims and broken lives for the government to decide to act? Women’s groups and citizens have been waiting three years for this Stratégie gouvernementale pour prévenir et contrer les violences sexuelles. The Intersyndicale des femmes, in which the FIQ is a member, reminded them in March 2015 during the consultations on the Plan d’action gouvernemental 2008-2013 en matière d’agression sexuelle (Government Action Plan 2008-2013 on matters of sexual assault) http://www.fiqsante.qc.ca/2016/10/18/la-fiq-interpelle-les-etablissements-denseignement-et-le-gouvernement/]. And that without counting the #AgressionNonDénoncée campaign which made a lot of noise and brought out an onslaught of testimonials from women who were victims on the Web in 2014.  The government should have woken up sooner given the number of raised voices.

And, if only the policy set forth represented real progress. If it is looked at more closely, it must be pointed out that there is very little new in it. The focus has been put almost entirely on the legal process, often long and experienced as a second trauma for the victims. Knowing that only 5% of victims make a complaint and 95% remain invisible, the question can be asked if the government really wants to support these women. Furthermore, of the 200 million dollars mentioned in the policy, only 26 million is new. The other 156 million concern the programmes which already exist in the different ministries, but the money has not yet been given to the organizations which come to the assistance of the women who are victims of sexual assaults.

The document made public by the government in presenting its policy is brimming with numbers that clearly reflect the facts. In reading them, it can no longer be denied that sexual violence is only an individual problem, but a real problem of society. The victims are speaking, the numbers speak… but the government doesn’t seem to be listening to either one of them.