OTTAWA, Ont. – There is a call for the Harper Conservatives to take action, after new numbers on gender-based violence in Canada show one in four girls have experienced some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16.
The Plan Canada survey shows that most of the sexual abuse youngsters are dealing with is happening by peers in and around schools. A lot of the abuse doesn’t involve touching, but rather smear campaigns and bullying on social media.
“Before, it was that students would go home and they would feel safer, but now home and school and your soccer team and everything is interwoven,” said Ramna, 15. “This level of safety that students were able to feel before has unfortunately gone down.”
Ramna, who has seen a lot of sexual harassment take place at her Toronto school, said many kids are reluctant to talk about what they’ve experienced with their parents.
“There’s many reason for that. There’s the age difference – often they feel they’re not understood. There’s this kind of level of wisdom that parents want to establish but also, that creates intimidation around them.”
Renu Mandhane, director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto, said there are additional reasons for abuse going unreported.
“Many do not come forward because of family honour, shame, stigmatization, or worries about retaliation,” she explained.
Plan Canada is calling on the federal government to create a national strategy to end gender-based abuse, and says the feds need to bring together national organizations and the provinces to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
“This is a patchwork quilt with a lot of gaping holes across a complex country like Canada,” said the agency’s Rosemary McCarney. “All of us have to come together and knit together these policies, these standards, these practices.”
A total of 15 per cent of boys and two thirds of LGBTQ students also report being harassed.