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January 16, 2003

Workshop raises awareness

From: Ontario Mirror Guardian, Canada - 16 Jan 2003

Ann-Marie Colacino

The process of reporting a rape, the possibility of re-victimization and what constitutes sexual assault are some of the key issues young women learned about at two sexual assault workshops last month in Scarborough. The workshops were held by the YWCA of Greater Toronto.

"[Both audiences] were very shocked to learn what a girl has to go through when reporting a rape; feelings of shame, the feeling that no one will believe them," said YWCA family support centre outreach worker Sara Ramnarine, who hosted the workshops at the East Scarborough Storefront at Morningside Mall and the Scarborough Youth Centre at the Scarborough Town Centre.

"Through activities, the girls learned to think 'outside the box' and how to help themselves or a friend if they ever experience sexual assault," said Ramnarine, who organized the workshop as part of the YWCA's Girls Night program, which is offered to young women between the ages of 12 and 24.

The Sexual Assault/Date Rape workshop is one of seven workshops that the Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) offers free to high schools, community centres and shelters in the Toronto area. According to METRAC, 69 per cent of women who are sexually assaulted know their assailant and 51 per cent of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence.

The workshops are provided by METRAC's Young Women's Anti-Violence Speakers' Bureau, a program designed to raise awareness of violence against women through interactive and empowering education. The workshops are normally aimed at young women and men between the ages of 12 and 19.

The four newest workshops include the Girl-on-Girl Violence Workshop, the Stalking Workshop, the Harassment Workshop and Empowerment.

"The feedback I received from my participants tells me that young women will benefit from this workshop and that there is a need for young women to learn and be confident that certain behaviours are not acceptable," said Ramnarine, who will be hosting this workshop again in the future.

Each workshop is held by two of METRAC's 14 facilitators from the Young Women's Anti-Violence Speakers' Bureau.

Facilitators receive on-going training on a variety of topics like legal issues regarding violence against women, accessibility for ESL learners, deaf culture, sexual assault, HIV/AIDS and more.

All training is conducted by professionals in the field such as the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, deaf activists, community activists, youths workers at Asian Community AIDS Services, etc...

Though they typically hold workshops at high schools, there have been a lot of requests from detention centres in the past year, said Joanna Pawelkiewicz, project co-ordinator for the Speakers' Bureau.

"We've also worked with a lot of youth who are facing a lot of issues in terms of poverty and conflict with the law," said Pawelkiewicz.

Teachers and youth workers can book a workshop by calling METRAC at 416-397-0258 or by emailing For more information, visit

METRAC's legal director and two women from the Speakers' Bureau will also be holding a presentation on stalking at this year's Women's Health Matters Forum & Expo, Jan. 17 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

"Statistically, stalking happens between people who know each other, very often ex-partners stalk someone who's broken up with them," said Pawelkiewicz. "The presentation will challenge some of the myths that are perpetuated in the media and deconstruct them."

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