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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

Erin Crickett, public education coordinator at the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area, speaks to a woman in one of their meeting rooms on the third floor of the downtown YWCA.

The pain never goes away

May is sexual violence awareness month

By Mark Newman, News Staff

Meet Amelia.

She lives in the downtown area and did not wish to have her last name used for this article.

About 13 or 14 years ago while living in the Woodstock area she was sexually assaulted, molested by “a friend of a friend” in a basement stairwell at her high school.

“It left me with nightmares,” she said “When ever I’m in an area that resembles (the stairwell) I become panicked, I get a quick sweat and I need to get out of that situation.”

About 10 years ago she moved to Hamilton.

By 2011 the affects of that assault and her move to end an abusive relationship led her to the door of the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton Area or SACHA for counselling and other support services.

She refuses to let fear and pain take over and stays active through working along with cycling, yoga and speaking to youth groups, letting young females and males know that sexual assault or gender based violence has to stop.

May is Sexual Violence Awareness month in Hamilton and Sexual Assault Prevention month across Ontario.

Erin Crickett, public education coordinator at SACHA, noted sexual violence remains a big issue in the community.

“The numbers haven’t decreased,” Crickett said.

According to the Ontario Women’s Directorate (part of the provincial government) website, it is estimated that one in three Canadian women will experience sexual assault in their adult life.

Also, women are 11 times more likely then men to be victims of sexual assault and only about 10 percent of sexual assault cases get reported to police.

Crickett said there is a feeling among some young women that sexual assault is normal or something that they have to put up with.

“I go to high schools (to speak to Grade 9 students) and in between classes I’d see women’s bums being touched,” Crickett said.

Despite the statistics and what she’s seeing in some high schools, Cricket said the situation is slowly improving.

“In the past five years we’ve seen a huge movement to counter victim-blaming,” she said. “That it’s not the survivors’ fault; survivors don’t cause rape because of what they wear or where they go or because they have a drink.”

Crickett noted sexual assault is getting more discussion in the community than ever before and grassroots groups like MentorAction (a group of local male leaders committed to ending gender-based violence) are being formed to address the issue.

“Whether it’s interrupting a sexist joke, whether it’s supporting a friend who’s experienced sexual violence, whether it’s going to a workshop, sharing on Facebook, there are lots of different ways to end sexual violence and it’s each Hamiltonian’s responsibility to be involved,” she said.

See: sacha.ca for a list of events the organization is holding during Sexual Assault Awareness month.

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