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Press Release

Would you stand by while someone was sexually harassed or assaulted?

Canada NewsWire

Survey shows nearly half of Ontarians would not intervene for a friend or co-worker

TORONTO, May 14, 2012 /CNW/ - A new survey reveals the extent to which Ontarians are conflicted about how to act in situations of potential sexual assault or harassment. While respondents were clear about how to act in cases where the threat or concern of sexual violence was obvious, the results show an overwhelming tendency to not get involved in situations that are complicated.

A new campaign, launched today to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, challenges Ontarians to think about how they would respond in a series of complex, real-world scenarios related to sexual consent, harassment and violence. A joint initiative by the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) and Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOCVF), Draw the Line/Tracons les limites  asks people to share their responses to these questions via Draw the les and the campaign Facebook page.

"There is a lingering stereotype that sexual violence is just about a stranger attacking someone in a dark alley," explains Julie Lalonde, Project Manager for Draw the Line."But the reality is that the situations we are more likely to deal with are questions around whether we should stop a friend who is drunk from going home with someone they just met. We wouldn't let that friend drive a car drunk, so why don't we watch out for them when they may not be capable of consenting to sex?"

The goal of the Draw the Line/Tracons les limites campaign is to start conversations among Ontarians about how to navigate these sometimes murky waters.

A new Ipsos Reid poll shows the conflicted nature of Ontarians' response to complex scenarios:

  • We're not watching our friends' backs. A slim majority (55%) of Ontarians would intervene if a drunk friend went into the bathroom with someone she had just met, while four in ten (42%) would simply ignore it and 'keep dancing'. The survey showed that women (65%) were much more likely than men (43%) to go see what was happening.
  • We don't want to rock the boat at work. Only 50% of respondents would 'say something' if their boss told a co-worker how great her legs look in a skirt, while the other half (49%) would just go back to their desk and say nothing. Women were slightly more likely to say something (53%) versus men (46%).

"The survey results show how much more conflicted we feel when it's not obvious whether a situation is acceptable or not," says Lalonde, "When it comes to those murky situations, like our own boss, or our friends' decisions, it's not always easy to know what to do."

The survey also showed that there are some situations where Ontarians know what they should do, however numerous high-profile examples in Canada and the United States demonstrate that we may not act the way we say we would when these situations arise in real life:

  • We say that violence is not acceptable, no matter who you are. Only one in ten (12%) say that they would go ahead and download the music of a singer who had assaulted his girlfriend. The majority (85%) of Ontarians say they would 'find another artist to listen to'.
  • We say we would have restraint if someone shared risky pictures. In a situation where a friend sends a picture of a naked girl he knows, Ontarians overwhelmingly say that they would not share it with others. 95% said that the picture 'stops with me', and only 4% said they would 'share it with others'. Younger respondents, aged 18 to 34, were more likely to share (7%).

"We all need to challenge ourselves about whether we walk the talk when it comes to these examples, because there is ample evidence that we don't," explains Julie Lalonde. "It doesn't even need to be a shocking example, like ones that have been in the news, of underage kids sharing racy photos around their school. How many of us have clicked on a link to naked pictures of a celebrity that we know were stolen from their phone? How many of us then shared them?"

Ontarians are invited to take the quiz at Draw the les , which will then aggregate your responses and provide a picture of how your choices on where to draw the line compare to the rest of the province. You can also join us on Facebook to submit your own scenarios or suggestions on how to address these difficult situations. The Draw the Line/Tracons les limites Twitter feed will offer a daily question for Ontarians to think about and to spark debate.

About the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)

For 30 years, the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) has been working in the province and across Canada to address and end sexual violence in our communities. The OCRCC was formed in the mid-1970s as a communication network for Rape Crisis/Sexual Assault Centres. It provides information sharing in policy stances, funding and lobbying efforts for centres, and acts as an advisory body to governments, community groups and other organizations.

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