Sexual Abuse: Changing the Conversation

Jan. 14, 2016

One in every four women and one in every six men has experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime. Moreover, research suggests that only 15% of those who experience sexual abuse reach out to formal services for support.

Difficulty navigating the system, long wait times and feelings of victimization are just a few challenges individuals affected by sexual abuse face when trying to seek help. The issues associated with sexual abuse are complex, overlapping and intergenerational. Without the proper support, many victims fall through the cracks. Guilt and shame are common feelings. Mental health challenges and drug or alcohol abuse are often also outcomes.

Opening the Circle, an initiative supporting victims of sexual abuse, will aim to change the way victims of sexual abuse receive support thanks to the help of a Community Vitality grant. The grant, for $325,825 over two years will help pilot innovative tools in local service organizations for victims of sexual abuse. Taking an approach that is centered on the lived experience of victims, the project is holistic in that it supports victims as well as systems change; this is the game-changing element of the project.

People impacted by sexual abuse want to be heard and treated as whole members of the community who are valued. By bringing together survivors of sexual abuse and service providers, there is potential for transformative change. This pilot process will serve as the relationship building vehicle for a service coordination and learning network on sexual abuse.

It’s important to create opportunities for people who normally don’t have a voice,” says Project Manager, Margaret MacPherson. “Their experience provides the leadership and vision. Their contributions need to be made room for. They often have the least invested in maintaining the status quo and the most perspective on how systems work.”

“This is an important issue that does not receive enough attention,” says Martha Powell, President & CEO of London Community Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to help bring awareness to this issue while building an inclusive community where everyone is valued and supported.”