5th anniversary of the #metoo movement: victims still neglected

5th anniversary of the #metoo movement: victims still left behind< /p> UPDATE DAY

More than five years after the advent of the #metoo whistleblowing movement, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve the justice system and encourage victims to speak up, say victims' advocacy groups .

In October 2017, the New York Times published a report revealing numerous accusations of sexual violence against American producer Harvey Weinstein. These revelations have sparked a planetary movement that continues to have repercussions in 2022.

Since then, stories of sexual misconduct have continued to multiply and the management of these files, as at Hockey Canada, is often singled out. In addition, the sentences given to aggressors, as in the case of engineer Simon Houle, who received a discharge for a sexual assault, show all the way to go, underlines Mélanie Lemay, activist for the #metoo movement and co-founder of Quebec against sexual violence.

“These situations are what we have seen every day for years, she drops. And stories [like the absolution of the engineer] are said to be isolated cases, but there is an investigation which has proven that in the last five years, there have been maybe 150”.

She also believes that Hockey Canada is the perfect demonstration of a visceral denial of its accountability in this file.

“And this denial is also observed on the part of the political class and the various actors in the judicial community; what they want at all costs is to keep the public trust,” continues Ms. Lemay. 

A balm

Monique Villeneuve , director general of the Center for Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Sexual Assault (CPIVAS), also believes that there is still a lot of work to be done. Nevertheless, she believes that the movement has brought some positives.

“Sexual violence is recognized in the public space. It was a balm for our clientele,” argues Ms. Villeneuve. 

“We need harsher sentences for the aggressors, in order to send the signal to the victims to file a complaint,” adds- her.

The recently announced plan for a Specialized Tribunal is a good start, its effectiveness remains to be seen.

“The reasons why victims did not file complaints have remained the same, because there has been no change in the level of justice”, she underlines.

Ms. Lemay admits that there has been a significant jump in complaints of sexual assault in Quebec since the movement. There was also a leap of disappointment among the victims.

“Many saw their complaints closed or experienced secondary victimization phenomena,” observes Ms. Lemay.

Ms. Villeneuve and Lemay report a still significant lack of accompaniment, support and recognition for victims in the legal process and their sense of justice. Free access to specialized lawyers is one of them. 

“Victims at this very moment are on the verge of bankruptcy, because their attackers have, for example, decided to send them for defamation . What we see, in spite of everything, are even more disillusioned victims,” ​​laments Ms. Lemay.

“It will take a good dose of humility, both from the political world and the judiciary, to sit down and integrate into their large reflection table, the voice of the victims,” she concludes.