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Women gather to decry hospitals’ lax standards for sexual assault staff

Grassroots protest wins ear of Andrea Horwath

Despite blackening clouds and the onslaught of rain, supporters and survivors of sexual assault gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Monument. They were there in response to news that women who had been sexually assaulted were being turned away by the Civic Hospital due to short staffing of sexual assault nurses.

Julie Lalonde, a volunteer with the sexual assault support centre (SASC) and coordinator and cofounder of the Carleton Sexual Assault support centre, was at the forefront of organizing the rally.

Although the Civic Hospital is now following protocol by having a sexual assault available at all times, Lalonde stated that it was not enough.

“If the hospital was able, in just a few days, to get enough staff to the area 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then why didn’t they do so from the beginning?” says Lalonde. “Its clear that violence against women and sexual assault in particular are not priorities, even though the Ottawa Police had said themselves that eight women a day are sexually assaulted.”

Since the media picked up the story of women been turned away Lalonde said that she had been inundated with phone calls.

“When the news broke last week, I was flooded with calls and emails from people who were deeply, deeply upset; really, really enraged quite frankly that this was happening and feeling that they had to do something,” says Lalonde.

The rally was a grassroots response to the issue with people from all walks of life galvanizing to show their support, with a few female politicians showing their faces.

Andrea Horwath, Ontario’s NDP leader was present as well as mayoral candidate and anti-poverty activist Jane Scharf.

The rally began at the Human Rights Memorial on Elgin St. People then began chanting and main away along the pavement to Minto Park where sexual assault survivors told their stories.