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ReAct Youth Alliance

April 16th, 2012     by METRAC ReAct     Comments

[Poster text: Aqsa Parvez, Chantel Dunn, Lisa Janna Black, Reena Virk, and all young women and youth killed and/or forgotten by gendered violence. Please remember youth violence isn’t just about gun violence. Please remember youth violence isn’t just about gun violence! We’re tired of being silenced! Meaningfully include us in your decision-making processes! Some statistics… 27% of young women were pressured into doing a sexual act they didn’t want to do. Muslim women (who deal with anti-Islamic discrimination) are more at risk because they are more identifiable. 300 women and children were turned away from shelters in one single day. Non-status immigration women and youth don’t report domestic abuse because they fear deportation Young women experience the highest rates of stalking/criminal harassment. Aboriginal women and young women are # times more like to be victims of spousal violence than non-Aboriginal people. Black girls and youth have to deal with a sexist school system and police officers. 80% of young women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. LGBTTIQ youth of colour are not only victimized because of their race but also because of their sexual and gender identities. For the full Youth Alliance project literature review and list of demands, visit www.metrac.org Image credit: Golsham Abdmoulaie and Dolores Sanguedolce Protest placards read: we will not be silenced! My voice is my gun Megaphone reads: ReAct respect in action: youth preventing violence]


Youth violence in Toronto and in other cities is, time and time again, defined solely as an issue of guns, gangs, drugs, poverty and racialized male-to-male violence. This ignores the high level of sexual assault and physical violence against girls and young women. Solutions to youth violence can start with recognizing that girls and young women experience violence differently from boys and young men and, therefore, separate interventions and prevention approaches are required (Youth Alliance list of demands and review of lit, 2008).

Young women experience the highest rates of stalking/criminal harassment (Statistics Canada, 2004, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile). LGB2TTIQ youth of colour are not only victimized because of their race but also because of their sexual identities (source). 80% of young women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes (National Clearing House on Family Violence, 2005, Violence Against Women with Disabilities). Black girls and Black youth have to deal with sexist, racist school systems and police officers (Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, July 2002). 27 percent of young women were pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to in Toronto schools (CAMH, Feb. 06, 2008, “Sexual Harassment and School Safety: How Safe Do Students Feel?” Press Release). 29 out of 51 young women surveyed said they do not feel very comfortable reporting incidents to the police (Youth Alliance Project in partnership with THRIVE, the Multicultural Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Oppression, 2008, Young Women’s Survey).

Please remember youth violence isn’t just about gun violence! We’re tired of being silenced! Meaningfully include us in your decision-making processes!

These realities are the driving force behind the Youth Alliance’s projects since 2008, when we first surveyed youth communities and looked at the existing realities faced by young women. The Youth Alliance is a youth-driven collective focused on issues of sexual and gender based violence experienced by Toronto youth. We work to strengthen the capacities of youth to advocate for improvements to our city’s existing approaches to addressing this form of violence, build our own capacity to support young people including ourselves and create resources that reflect youth-driven strategies.

In 2010, we reviewed Toronto Police Services’ policies and procedures of the Sex Crimes Unit in order to learn more about the systemic barriers compounding the rape culture young women are growing up in. We also met with youth workers working in schools and communities to see if they were able to better support young women seeking justice.

We spent most of our time talking to young women whose lives were affected by these barriers. We conducted focus groups, distributed surveys, visited with girls’ groups and hosted a retreat where young women used photographs and creative writing to express their thoughts and feelings about youth-police relations, support services and impacts of sexual assault and gender-based violence.

This image was taken by a young woman who took part in a photovoice activity facilitated by the Youth Alliance

Our report, Police Policy and Practice on Sexual Assault Against Young Women, made 10 recommendations for Toronto Police policy changes. The report outlines why and how to meaningfully include young women in policy change and highlights two major gaps in support-services surfaced by our research:

1. Youth service providers working in communities define youth quite differently than the Police Services (recommendation #1: Incorporate a unique definition of “youth into police policies and practices). 13-24 (City of Toronto) 15-29 (Canadian government, federal) 16 and under (age of consent) 18 and under (age of majority) How can youth be supported in consistent and holistic ways as they move through systems and communities when what constitutes “youth” is so drastically different in each space? and 2. That the current information provided by the Toronto Police to young women reporting sexual assault, online and in print, are not youth-friendly, and safety planning is often inappropriate or irrelevant to the realities of sexual violence (recommendation #8: Develop more youth-friendly information to explain reporting processes and young women’s rights).

We learned that despite the lack of trust marginalized young women expressed where the police are concerned, they don’t know where else to go, so they rarely seek justice at all for sexual violence - or when they do, report are re-victimized by a system that takes away their agency once again. Less than 30% of the 44 young women surveyed by the Youth Alliance in 2010 said they trusted the police, and 70% said they had had one or more negative interactions with police. Nonetheless, 80% said that if they experienced sexual assault, they would call the police.

This image was taken by a young woman who took part in a photovoice activity facilitated by the Youth Alliance

Before 2012 comes to an end, the Youth Alliance will put out a zine in response to the S.O.S. we heard from so many young women. The zine will be a step-by-step guide for young women who choose to report crimes of sexual assault. We hope our zine will address not only the process for advocating for yourself or a friend when navigating the current justice system, but also provide other options as brainstormed by youth communities and shared by survivors of sexual violence.

The Youth Alliance continues to be committed to fighting for young women and youth to be involved in identifying, defining and driving change in their own lives and on systemic levels.

How do/can we support youth in naming their experiences of sexual violence and blazing their own trail to safety and survivorship? What are we missing that we should be considering when doing this work?

We hope you will join us on Thursday April 26th to expand the discussion and learn more about what has informed the work of the Youth Alliance to date.



Poster text:

Date: Thursday, April 26, 2012 Time: 4-7pm Where: 501 Adelaide Street East, at Adelaide and Sherbourne (wheelchair accessible venue) TTC: Sherbourne Station, 75 bus

Dinner will be provided Tokens available if needed Child minding available if needed

Contact: Helen Yohannes, yohannes.helen@gmail.com, Phone: (647) 963-6335

The goals of the day are:

1) to bring youth and youth supporters together to talk about our experoences of violence and justice

2) to explore how we can mee each other’s needs with respect to support, healing and justice

3) Enagage youth and youth supporters and build their response to Youth Allaince recommendations on a community-based level and strengthern police accountability to the recommendations

The Youth Alliance is a youth-driven collective working to improve responses to violence against young women in Toronto. The Youth Alliance conducted research that identified strengths, challenges and gaps in police policies and procedures and recommendations for improvement that will be shared at this event.

Tags: anti-violence, metrac react

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