Advocates say Ghomeshi, Cosby cases fuel overdue debate on sexual assault

WATCH: Sexual assault victims’ advocates are noticing an increased dialogue about the issue.

TORONTO – Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, and two Liberal MPs have all been accused of some form of sexual assault in the last month. And while that may not have changed the number of people who are reporting sexual assault to police, people working with survivors said the number of people talking about violence against women has increased – and that’s a good thing.

“What we have seen is an increase through social media and conversations happening, and we’re grateful to have those conversations happening, as the only rape crisis centre in Toronto, we’re trying to reach and get the message out as far and wide as we can,” Cynamin Maxwell, a peer counsellor advocate at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.

According to, a website which tracks social media analytics, the hashtag #Beenrapedneverreported was used over 42,000 times in November.  The hashtag was used by women who said they had been sexually assaulted but had never reported it for a variety of reasons.

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READ MORE: How is consent determined in sexual assault cases?

And most sexual assaults are never reported. According to the YWCA, there are over 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada each year. Only 33 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are ever reported to police.

When the assaults are reported, they generally don’t lead to conviction. According to the YWCA, only six reports lead to prosecution and only three of those lead to convictions.

According to Statistics Canada, only 47 per cent of sexual assault cases ended with conviction in 2012.

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READ MORE: How likely is Jian Ghomeshi to be convicted of sexual assault?

Lucy DeCoutere, the first of Ghomeshi’s alleged victims to publicly identify herself said in a statement Wednesday, “the past month has seen a major shift in the conversation about violence against women.”

“It has been an overwhelming and painful time for many people, including myself, but also very inspiring,” she said. “I hope that victims’ voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed.”

TIMELINE: Jian Ghomeshi charged in sex assault scandal

Ghomeshi intends to plead not guilty to the four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance, his lawyer told reporters after his bail hearing Wednesday.  Ghomeshi was released on $100,000 bail with the condition he live with his mother.

Ghomeshi has not spoken to the media since the allegations arose but has said in two Facebook posts his encounters with women were consensual and he intends to meet the allegations directly.

With files from Christina Stevens and Erika Tucker

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