Free Legal Advice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Some of you may have already heard, but yesterday the Ministry of the Attorney General announced that in Ottawa, Toronto and Thunder Bay, the province of Ontario will be piloting  a new program for survivors of sexual assault. This program allows survivors of sexual assault free access to legal advice, regardless of how long it has been since the incident.

Here are some quick facts about the program from the “news.ontario.ca” website:

Quick Facts

  • The pilot is expected to run until March 2018. During that time, the province will assess the effectiveness of the program and determine its next steps.
  • Services provided under the program are available to both women and men who are at least 16 years of age and the assault must have occurred in Ontario.
  • Through the program, eligible survivors can choose from a roster of lawyers to provide legal advice. Although these lawyers will not provide legal representation (e.g. speak for the client in court), they may advise a client to speak to a lawyer who can represent them.
  • Survivors of sexual assault in any of the pilot sites can get information about the program in multiple languages through the toll-free, 24/7 phone line: 1-855-226-3904.
  • One in three women and one in six men experience some form of sexual assault in their lives.

So, how do it register for this program?

All female and male survivors do have access to this program and must fill out a voucher request form, which can be found here: Voucher Request Form.

I am proud to see that the province of Ontario is taking such initiative. They are taking strides in their It’s Never Okay– Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment. They want to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are informed and that they receive the support they need. I hope that this plan does help to change attitudes and that it does create more support for all survivors of sexual assault.

To read more details about the pilot program, please follow this link to the Ontario Newsroom, where they outline all the details of the pilot program.

 

Posted in Links, Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview on Local Stories – Local People with Carol Anne Meehan

I recently did an interview with Carol Anne Meehan on her show Local Stories- Local People. We discuss my past experiences with sexual abuse and the concept behind the Living-Room Sanctuary. It was a pleasure to speak with Carol Anne Meehan and I hope you all enjoy the interview.

Interview starts at the 1:18 mark.

 

Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment

Letters to Lynn: Jane Christmas on Ghomeshi Trial

By Jane Christmas

A £600,000 bronze statue that was erected in London, England, last year to honour Mohandas Gandhi stirred outrage when the idea for it was put forth. It turns out that the peace activist was a prolific swordsman, joining the likes of Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Philip Larkin, Lord Byron, and Silvio Berlusconi. All were known for their charisma; all were serial womanizers.

Charisma is a lovely innate quality that gets burnished by public relations consultants attempting to elevate a client to god-like stature. Remember the fawning over Bill Clinton’s oratorical skills? Did you actually attend one of his talks? I did, several years ago, with a work colleague (also female), and ten minutes into it the two of us looked wide-eyed at one another and mouthed, “We paid a hundred bucks for this?”

Charisma reels in chumps like me into believing that Clinton is a fantastic speaker, that Gandhi is a humble agent of peace, that King is a great statesman, which is a great coup if you handle the public relations for such people. But should it matter that these men seduced, raped, and otherwise abused women?  Yes, it should. If your favourite politician, actor, musician, doctor, gas station attendant was a known pedophile you would not think twice about jettisoning him or her from your Favourite People list because you would rightly peg him as unworthy of whatever glory he had garnered. So why do we let men who rape women off the hook?

Another media personality who was said to have charisma up the wazoo was Jimmy Savile. Adored by young and old in Britain, honoured by the Queen with an OBE and a knighthood, Sir Jimmy was a blend of eccentricity and philanthropic goodness. When he died in 2011, there were calls for statues to be erected in his honour until word seeped out about his perversion: raping girls in his dressing room, and sexually groping the very hospital patients whose burdensome lives he was supposed to lighten.  A few courageous women had reported Savile’s aberrant behaviour to the police and to Savile’s employer, the BBC, but they were dismissed as lunatics and liars.  The tide has since turned big time with police documenting a shocking litany of more than 200 criminal offences, of which 34 were rapes.

Jian Ghomeshi is said to possess charisma though to meet him in person is to wander into a stench of eau d’arrogance that so overpowers that you want to gag. Still, he used his celebrity-induced charisma to prey on his admirers. He was hailed as talented (true), tuned-in to the cultural zeitgeist (likely true), and a perceptive interviewer (I flatly disagree).  It is the latter that most people gush over.  That and his aw-shucks smile and good looks. The same traits that drew women to Ted Bundy.  The trick of a true narcissist And now Ghomeshi has arrogantly tried to turn the tables claiming that it is us—provincial, home-loving, Horton’s drinking, uncool women (and men) bound up by our comfortable missionary-style sex who are the problem, who are so out of touch with the world around us that we have no clue that bashing, choking and bullying the opposite sex is the new sex.  That he freely played his CBC bosses his sex tapes and could not believe how offended they were gives an indication that he was breathing his own charisma-infused air on Planet Jian.

For those of us who worked in media and the arts in Seventies- and Eighties-era Toronto the Ghomeshi scandal resurrects gut-wrenching memories.

Women had come through a vociferous period of modern feminism, and political pressure was now being applied for companies to open up more opportunities to the flood of women graduating from universities. The rolled-eyed acceptance of employers changed dramatically when the benefits became clear: the newbies on their doorsteps were young, compliant, and cheap—we would be paid much less than our male counterparts and no one would be the wiser. We women didn’t care so much: we were simply keen to get on the ladder. The underside revealed itself in short order: our naïveté coupled with our eager-to-please attitude was like catnip.

The arts and media had a high concentration of men with predatory appetites. Not all of them had charisma, but most adopted a sort of droit de seigneur.  We women had not  learned the value of networking at that point but gradually we learned and we gleaned and shared intelligence. There was the national news anchor who chatted up and seduced each new young female staffer; the radio host, the TV news executive, the publishing house editor, the gallery owner, the current affairs producer, the reporter, the author, the record company executive, all of whom regarded the brave new world of gender parity as some sexual open season.  Meanwhile, the female recruits, wanting to appear collegial, gave them the benefit of the doubt.  And so, at the end of a shift the newsroom intern would be pleasantly surprised to be invited by the news anchor to share a cab home only to wind up in his bed. The publishing house editor would flatter and promise career advancement and the young staffer, dizzy from the attention, would acquiesce to his unwanted advances. I remember a female colleague arriving at work in the morning just as the CTV grapevine was spurting out details of her previous night’s “date”. Invariably, these women ended up with hushed-up abortions, soul-destroying shame, suicidal thoughts, and job loss. The predators, however, ended up with the Order of Canada.

I did not escape unscathed. In a file in a vault in the bowels of 52 Division in Toronto is a videotaped statement of me recounting being raped when I worked as a publicity manager for a major record label in the early 1980s. It happened the night of the Juno Awards when our department was put up at the Harbour Castle Hotel, where the event was hosted. For some reason I feel it necessary to mention here that I did not drink that night: my colleagues (all male) were drug users and I wanted to be stone cold sober in order to make a quick getaway to my room and avoid their shenanigans. Just before midnight I did just that. A few hours later I was awakened by one of the senior executives hammering at my door. It was urgent, he said. I immediately thought of my job and the expectation that I would be needed to write and disseminate a news release. Baffled by what calamity could possibly merit a news flash at that hour, I stumbled half awake to the door and opened it a crack. My parents had always taught me to defer to authority, to trust my bosses, be nice, do as I was told. When I opened the door the executive barged in, bolted the door, shoved me onto the bed and raped me. So much for my parents’ advice about deference and trust.

Nothing prepares you for such things, but women should not have to be constantly on rape alert. Ghomeshi’s antics illustrate that not much has changed in 30-plus years. To paraphrase the philosopher George Santayana, any experience that is not absorbed and retained is destined to be repeated.

The shrapnel from the Ghomeshi scandal will be absorbed into the body of humanity; the hash-tagged outrage will dissolve into the ether, the flag of charisma will attach itself to another man under whose spell we will fall, and the cause of feminism will hunker down in the trench and await its next Groundhog Day appearance. Unless we bang our fist on the table and say, “This stops now.”

Jane Christmas is a bestselling author whose 2014 work, And Then There Were Nuns, was shortlisted for the Leacock Medal for Humour and the Word Awards. She now lives in England.

 

Posted in Letters to Lynn | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ghomeshi trial

In My Opinion

This is a new topic for The Living-Room in which I challenge all women to weigh in on any aspect/s of the sexual abuse trial of Jian Ghomeshi. As we await the verdict from the judge later in March, let’s get your points of view out on the table.

There are probably not too many Canadians who don’t know about the Jian Ghomeshi trial but, on the other hand, there are probably many who do not understand the nature of sexual abuse. I’m no expert but here are some of my observances:

  • Sexual abuse is probably one of the most misunderstood phenomena in the world,
  • The nature of sexual abuse as a reportable offence is totally misunderstood,
  • To say the nature of this particular trial was so icily handled by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, is to state the blatantly obvious,
  • To blame victims, has to be the biggest “cop-out” ever, and
  • To pick holes in the statements of post-traumatic minds shows an ignorance and cruelty beyond belief.

I will discuss these five topics and then ask you for your opinion. Anything goes and you can be as open or anonymous as you wish.

  • As I’ve said before, to be part of the sorority of sexually abused women is anything but glamorous, but, sadly, it’s one of the largest clubs in the world. Sexual abuse is no respecter of age, religion or place of birth/dwelling. When it happens to any of us, it is a painful thorn in the side of each of us. It comes in all shapes and sizes and has too many tentacles to count and for these reasons, each woman’s story is unique. Each telling of her story is also unique, so to try and box it in to a neat description simply doesn’t work. The complexities of each story are so deep and wide that it makes it impossible to contain into a convenient court scenario, thus a judgement on a perpetrator is also very difficult. Thus with not even a working definition, such cases often end up in favour of the accused which, in turn, stabs the victim yet again.
  • To report or not report, is that really the question? We’ve heard both sides of the argument which go something like this: “having watched the testimony of three women who accused Ghomeshi of sexual abuse, I now know there is no way I’d ever take the stand.” Conversely, “Watching what appeared to me as obviously getting away with these crimes, I feel totally compelled to report all the injustices perpetrated against me.” The point is that these “injustices” fester inside a woman like a cancer and until she chooses to confront them, whether it is in front of a judge and jury, a gathering of friends or with a knowledgeable counsellor, until she is ready to do this, the torment will completely lie within her and hinder her day-to-day living. An injustice ignored and left to fester is like an infection untreated; there are no guarantees that just because one ignores it, it will conveniently disappear. What’s good for one lady is not necessarily good for another, but what is good for all ladies is that they face these atrocities that occurred in their lives, work on them so they can be managed in the psyche and with really hard work, they can be given a place deep in the recesses of the mind where they will be recognized for what they are. Furthermore, if they try to rear their ugly heads, they can be put to rest with some coping techniques that will be personal to each survivor.
  • Marie Henein, Ghomeshi’s lawyer, has appeared to the public as icy, vindictive, cruel, sterile, to use but a few adjectives. Towards women who have been sexually abused, she was a person out to kill these victims with her bare teeth. I read somewhere, that she was called “the smartest, toughest, most sought-after defence lawyer in the city.” (Ottawa) Maybe she is those things, but to us, the survivors, she’s like a hungry, rabid animal out to kill her prey (the accusers) with her bare fangs and hands. She’s out to win at all costs, even at the expense of the accused. It does not appear that she understands one shred of behaviour displayed by survivors of sexual assault. Yes, it’s her job to find the accusers guilty and yes, she’s working within the parameters of the law and, finally, yes, she will probably give Ghomeshi his walking papers, but the venom spewing from her mouth does not give us the perception that she is a member of the human race. Sometimes, even being right is wrong and that is Marie Henein to a “T.”
  • For Henein to “blame the victims” is to show her total lack of understanding of sexual abuse in general. Even if these women pranced before Ghomeshi nude, when they said “NO/STOP.” they meant “NO/STOP.” These e-mails, phone calls, chatter to the police or to others, are simply red herrings for this lawyer. Memories are not always crystal clear, post-traumatic minds are often hazy and terrified, and rather than let embarrassingly painful truths emerge, lies, laughter, coy misdemeanors etc. are presented instead of the horrifying truths that took place during the sexual abuse. This lawyer appeared completely “medically ignorant” of these and more traits displayed by victims of abuse. It appeared, sadly, that these women did not experience professional, expert counselling before taking the stand. Here, I might add that someone putting themselves forward as a counsellor for people suffering from post-traumatic events, has a legal and moral responsibility to understand the topic before giving advice. Traumatic sexual abuse is right up there with victims of war who are forced to kill the enemy, no matter what. One can do so much damage if not an expert on the topic. She, and others, would do well to refer to Heather Daveduik Gingrich’s book, “Restoring The Shattered Self: A Christian Counselor’s Guide to Complex Trauma.”
  • When witnesses take the stand in any trial, there are protocols used for questioning them. Obviously, both the defence and the prosecution are at liberty to dig deeply into their toolboxes and pull out the best tools in their arsenal to prove their point. I say there are ways of handling witnesses to get the most out of them. In my opinion, clever, verbal cross-examination tactics are much more effective than muck-slinging, back-stabbing tactics which often prove disgusting and distasteful to both sides. Marie Henein really appeared to be fighting for herself much more than fighting against the accused and even against her own client. Winning another high-profile case seems to be her only objective. I wonder how she sleeps at night?

Well, that’s my opinion. What’s yours?  Please let your voices be heard.

Lynn Williams

Posted in In My Opinion, The Jian Ghomeshi | Tagged | 2 Comments

CKCU 93.1 Interview with Kim Kilpatrick and Shelley Ann Morris

On July 28th, 2015 I joined the WTMW Team to talk about my charity as well as my numerous things that I have done throughout my life. I discuss the concept for The Living-Room, a sanctuary for survivors of sexual abuse. Please click the link below to listen to my story. The interview starts at about 12:22 minutes.

CKCU 93.1 Interview with Kim Kilpatrick and Shelley Ann Morris

Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment

CKCU 93.1 FM Interview with Tony Copple

This is an interview I did on May 7th, 2015 with Tony Copple on CKCU 93.1FM about the Living-Room. I discuss the concept for The Living-Room, a sanctuary for survivors of sexual abuse. Please give it a listen if you would like to know more about this blog.

The interview starts at about 6:20 minutes.

CKCU 93.1FM interview with Tony Copple

Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment

Lynn speaks to CKCU 93.1 FM, Ottawa

Lynn Williams – founder of  The Living Room (, speaks on “I am Alive”  on ckcufm.com  The program airs at 7:05 am – 8 on Thursday 7 May 2015, and will be available on demand for months after.  She expounds her vision, explains why survivors of sexual abuse need to communicate (with other survivors), and hints about the long-term future of The Living-Room.

Posted in Inspiration | Tagged , | 1 Comment