Reporting sexual assault allegations online gains steam as action continues to be taken

Reporting sexual assault allegations online gains steam as action continues to be taken

Chants from a rally echo in downtown Victoria on Friday, focused on raising awareness regarding sexual assault.

“I want people to understand how truly damaging it can be and I want parents to start teaching their children what’s right and what’s wrong, and what consent is,” said the event’s organizer Kailyn Ford.

She says things need to change.

Kailyn is only 16 years old but says she, and 90 per cent of her friends, have been the victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

“I think people think it’s rare because they don’t know or understand what things are actually sexual assault or sexual harassment because they were never taught what is acceptable and what is wrong,” said the organizer.

This rally comes at a time when the topic of sexual assault is top of mind for many in Victoria.

On Thursday, two real estate agents were fired from their jobs at the Agency Victoria after numerous sexual assault allegations surfaced on the Survivor Stories Project Instagram page.

As of Thursday, the Real Estate Board of BC has terminated both of their licenses.

This isn’t the first time recently that social media allegations have led to serious repercussions.

In February, posts concerning a staff member at Chuck’s Burger Bar surfaced on the same Instagram page. The man was fired and the restaurant has now closed as of early March.

Last summer, two tattoo artists were accused online of sexual assault. Those allegations eventually led to their firing and one of their arrests.

READ MORE: Two Victoria tattoo artists fired after multiple sexual assault allegations go viral

“I think it’s amazing and I think over the past two weeks, a lot of girls and guys have been sharing posting on their stories about what’s right and what’s wrong, what we can do to help and I think it’s really great that we can bring awareness on social media about how bad it is,” said Kailyn.

It seems more survivors are taking to their keyboards, sharing their stories on social media.

“When you are the victim of sexual violence, one thing you can feel is to feel very afraid and alone and isolated, so going on social media, you can feel part of a community. You can feel potentially seen and heard and know that your story is being heard,” said Elijah Zimmerman, executive director of the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VicSAC).

According to the VicSAC, one-in-four women will experience sexualized violence, but only 10 per cent report it to the police.

Zimmerman says there are many reasons survivors don’t tell their stories to an officer.

“This process of justice in the criminal justice can take quite along time, and you may not get the result you want, so many people find that intimidating and exhausting,” said Zimmerman.

The Victoria Police department says their door is always open to listen to survivors, but that it understands why individuals might choose not to reach out.

“Survivors choose whom they share their story with, and how they share their story,” said VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko in a statement to CHEK News. “For some, a police investigation and court process isn’t what they feel they need. We fully respect that.”

It seems social media reporting of sexualized violence might be here to stay.

“I think the social media aspect as a tool for survivors to speak out and to make a call for action, it will grow as long as it continues to have a response,” said Zimmerman

If you have been a victim of sexualized violence, or have any information about the ongoing investigation, you can contact the Victoria Police Department or the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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