The public conversation around consent and harassment is back in the spotlight after radio stations across Canada pulled the holiday song Baby It’s Cold Outside.
But an Edmonton gender equity consultant says, in terms of real progress in the MeToo era, not a lot has been made.
“We’ve started to acknowledge that sexual violence is a pervasive problem across our entire society,” Dr. Cristina Stasia said.
“What we’ve seen is some high-profile men being held accountable. But we haven’t seen legislative changes. We haven’t seen judicial changes. We haven’t seen curriculum changes. We haven’t seen mandatory training.”
The “unsexy” next steps
Stasia says what’s needed now are things like policies and procedures around training judges and hiring and promoting leaders.
“It’s easier to focus on these high-profile people than to look at the institutional changes that we need,” Stasia said.
In Edmonton, agencies are grappling with a surge in demand for clarity around what’s acceptable.
“We cannot keep up with the demands for corporations and institutions in our city who are begging us to help them with their policies and procedures around sexual harassment,” Mary Jane James with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, said.
“We are doing as much of this as we can but our capacity is limited.”
The numbers are up
It’s been just over a year since the MeToo movement triggered an avalanche of accusations of sexual misconduct against — and in many cases consequences for — high-profile people.
A report from Bloomberg tallied at least 429 cases of prominent or powerful people called out in the first year of #MeToo.
Nationally, Statistics Canada shows a sharp spike in reports of sexual assault following October 2017. The first three months of the movement saw a 25 per cent year-over-year hike in the number of sexual assaults that were reported to police and classified as founded criminal offenses.
“The average number of police-reported sexual assault victims went from 59 per day before #MeToo to 74 per day after #MeToo,” reads a Stats Can report out this week.
What can you do?
“It’s easier to focus on: ‘I’m upset about Baby It’s Cold Outside,’ or, ‘This celebrity I like who is now being accused and I might not be able to see them at a comedy club,’ than it is to think about: ‘What’s my role in this?’ And, ‘What’s the work we all have to do in our homes, our churches, our sports leagues, our departments to create a society where people are safe?'” Stasia said.
She highlights the need for individual action.
“There’s been a lot of hope placed in change happening through these high-profile men being held accountable. But I’m curious how many people have looked up the definition of consent.
“How many people have attended a workshop given by the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, or reviewed their sexual harassment policy at work or asked the senior leadership to review it, or put up posters letting people know what are the steps you take if you’re being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted.
“And so, that’s the work that has to still be done.”