The day after the verdict having declared Harold LeBel guilty of sexual assaultthe Center for Assistance and the Fight Against Sexual Assault (CALACS) of the East of Bas-Saint-Laurent reports relief for victims of sexual assault, but stresses that there is still work to be done for victims of sexual assault.
“Each verdict is important, because each verdict can have an impact on society, but all the more so when it comes to a public figure such as a former elected official”, explains the co-responsible for the socio sector. -politician of the CALACS of the East of Bas-Saint-Laurent, Émilie Pelletier.
“You shouldn’t just focus on this situation because it involves a well-known personality. One in three women will experience at least one sexual assault in her lifetime and we know that women make up about half of the population, so it really affects a lot of people. »
She explains that while the system has improved, some aspects are still problematic.
“There is relief in the victims of sexual assault. It can send a message that it’s possible to win a cause. We are relieved by this news, but the fact remains that the judicial system still has some crusts to eat. »
“It’s always difficult to denounce, whether it’s a person in a position of authority or not. We do not deny that there are improvements in the judicial system, we see in particular a desire to do better with the specialized courts, however what is still problematic are certain myths and certain prejudices circulating in the judicial community. »
To remedy this, Ms. Pelletier emphasizes the importance of awareness.
“The key is really education and awareness, to better understand what sexual assault is. To also understand how difficult it can be for a victim to cross-examine, which can sometimes be very long. So, what we recommend a lot is training, awareness of the traumatology of sexual assault, the neurobiology of trauma. »
“A victim’s word should not be questioned because she can’t remember the color of the curtains during the sexual assault, or the color of her clothes: to remember how bad it can be traumatic sexual assault and that is also what we would like the legal system to take into account, in particular by raising awareness of the issues at stake. »
CALACS and support
She also wishes to recall the operation of CALACS and the way in which the workers want to give the floor to the victims.
“At CALACS, when it comes to support, we go where the person wants to go. It’s really important for us to believe the victim: too often they are invalidated. About 60% of people who come to CALACS have been disabled when they first come forward, so for us it’s really important to believe the victim, not to question their word, to go at their own pace and let them tell his own story. In the words she wants to use, at her own pace. »
“When we experience a sexual assault, it is an act of domination, it is a person who has taken power over us. So, in our approach, the person is an expert in their experience, their story and we want to support them so that they can regain power over their life, the power that was stolen from them.
Solidarity for all the victims
She concludes on the fact that a victim who does not denounce or who does not speak about his aggression, is not for all that forgotten by the organization.
“We are also in solidarity with the other victims, those who will never talk about it. We stand in solidarity with all victims of sexual assault and it is important for us to leave no one behind. We can also think of the words of certain people who are too often ignored: Indigenous women, racialized and immigrant women, people of sexual diversity and plurality of genders, etc.