Unions are advocates for workers and their health and safety. That includes their physical and mental health and safety.
Sexual violence is a union issue. Whether as witnesses, participants or as survivors, sexual violence is a serious matter and affects all members of the union, workplace and community.
We must ensure that there are processes in place that we can use to hold ourselves to account. We want to change the systems that allow inequality for those who identify as women and nonbinary folks and allow violence against them to occur in our homes, streets, workplaces, and even in our union spaces.
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence includes any sexual act that targets a person’s sexuality, gender expression or gender identity, whether physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened, or attempted against a person without the person’s consent.
Sexual violence can result in serious and negative impacts on the survivor’s mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health and well being. People who witness it and do not intervene are also negatively affected. Even the perpetrator does not remain unaffected by their actions and others’ reactions to them.
Who is affected by sexual violence?
Sexual violence can affect any worker regardless of sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.
However, most perpetrators of sexual violence are men and most victims are women. Women who are discriminated against because of race, Indigeneity, disability, class, immigration status and other marginalized identities may also experience higher rates of violence in general and sexual violence in particular.
People who do not conform to male-female gender binary or who are not in heterosexual relationships are also at greater risk.
Sexual violence and harassment are illegal. Canadian, provincial and territorial human rights laws prohibit discrimination based on sex, gender and sexual orientation.
What to do if you have experienced sexual harassment or violence?
Remember that it is not your fault! It takes courage to even speak about your experience, much less want to proceed with any form of justice.
We Believe You: Sexual Violence and Harassment in Union Spaces
The CUPE Ontario Women’s Committee wanted to create this guide and let you know that we believe you and to make sure that you are aware of your rights.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or violence, the guide includes a list of resources. You can also reach out to a CUPE 3907 representative or department steward.