Madam Chair and hon. committee members, good afternoon. I'm Jess Grover, the chair of the board at the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, KSAC; and I am joined today by Amie Kroes, the board secretary. We're here to speak in favour of Bill C-5.
Each year, KSAC, located in Peterborough, Ontario, works with nearly 750 clients and receives nearly 1,000 crisis calls, and nearly 15,000 people take part in our prevention education program. I've been a volunteer with KSAC for almost a decade, and I joined the board in 2016. I am a survivor of child rape.
The passage of Bill C-5 would be a crucial beginning step in addressing rape culture in Canada. Rape culture is an environment that normalizes and trivializes sexual assault through pervasive rape myths. These false ideas about survivor/victims and the nature and frequency of sexual assaults are all disproved by the support work and research that sexual assault centres across Canada do.
Rape culture is like dust. It floats around us, often imperceptible, especially if you aren't looking for it. It is tossed into our environment through the stories we consume and the biases we pass from generation to generation. As we interact with others in our society, it settles onto all of us. Every single person in this room is carrying a bit of this with us, and it weighs down our decisions and our actions. Unless we actively recognize and work to dismantle rape culture, it will continue to build up and weigh down our society. Make no mistake about it. The dust of rape culture floats through the justice system, and it will continue to collect on its inner workings until the system breaks under the strain of it.
All of us in this room can name very public instances that have caused Canadians' faith in the judicial system to be eroded with regard to sexual assault, which have directly impacted our work of sexual assault support and prevention education. This harmful environment in some courtrooms dissuades our clients and other survivor/victims from pursuing criminal avenues, and it directly contributes to sexual assault case attrition. These instances are directly cited by our clients accessing support.
We do not want to bias the judiciary. We do not want to tell judges how to do their job. We do not want to compromise the independence of Canada's judicial system.
We support this bill because it would help address the biases that we know currently exist.
We support this bill because we believe that education on sexual assault will directly impact our work. We want to stop feeling trepidation when we present the option of pursuing legal avenues to victims and survivors.
We support this bill because we expect our government to listen to Canadians and ensure the fairness of our justice system.
We support this bill because we understand that judges want to come to sound decisions, and this bill would help empower them to do so.
We support this bill because we expect courtrooms to stop contributing to the perpetuation of rape culture in Canada.