Vancouver Foundation – Changing Public Perceptions of Sexual Assault

May 11 2017 10:29am
BC Women’s Hospital Foundation and the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) are deeply grateful to the Vancouver Foundation for their commitment of $224,553 in support of the Changing Perceptions: Reimagining Sexual Assault to Better Support Survivors research project. This three-year community-based participatory research project will aim to shift public discourse around sexual assault in BC, leading to less victim-blaming and more trauma-informed responses across multiple systems (in particular, health, justice, and education).

Never before has public awareness about sexual assault in Canada been so high. Recent high profile court cases across Canada highlight concerns over how sexual assault is handled by professionals and society. Sexual assault is the most serious of all violent crimes measured by Canada’s General Social Survey; however, data suggests that this crime is not taken seriously in our society. Survivors of sexual assault often do not feel comfortable or supported in disclosing or reporting what happened to them. This is evidenced by data showing that, of the ~70,000 self-reported incidents of sexual assault reported in BC in 2014, only 2,341 sexual assaults were reported to police. Survivors also face numerous barriers in disclosing sexual assault. Choosing not to disclose a sexual assault may have harmful and lasting health and social consequences for survivors, their families, and communities.

Thanks to the Vancouver Foundation, BC Women’s and EVA BC researchers will be able to work with survivors, community-based organizations, and sexual assault response systems, to investigate how people in positions of power influence public perceptions of sexual assault, and how public perceptions in turn influence sexual assault survivors’ willingness to disclose and access support. This project aims to advance best practices to better support survivors of sexual assault to disclose and access much needed services.

This project will be conducted jointly by two organizations with extensive experience in the provision of services for survivors; policy development; and education and training for nurses, anti-violence experts and many others in BC. Principal Investigator Caitlin Johnston is Program Manager; Gynecology & Sexual Health, Sexual Assault Service (SAS), and Primary Care at BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre. Community Co-Lead, Dr. Kate Rossiter, is the Research and Projects Manager at EVA BC. Working together, BC Women’s and EVA BC will explore and translate new knowledge into existing sexual assault response systems to better support survivors across BC.

The BC Women’s Hospital, Sexual Assault Service (SAS) provides consultation and training to health care providers and others working to support sexual assault survivors across British Columbia. Locally, SAS offers medical care, forensic evaluation (upon patient request) and services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to anyone (male, female, transgendered), from any province or country, who is 13 or older and has been sexually assaulted within the past 7 days.


The Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) is a province-wide, non-profit, victim-serving organization that has existed in BC for almost 25 years and is funded primarily by the Province of BC to serve as a resource for over 240 community-based services supporting survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, child abuse and criminal harassment.

With over 1,700 funds and total assets of $1.06 billion, Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation. In 2015, Vancouver Foundation and its donors made more than 4,300 grants, and distributions totaling approximately $53 million, to registered charities across Canada. Since it was founded in 1943, Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with its donors, has distributed more than $1 billion to thousands of community projects and programs. Grant recipients range from social services to medical research groups, to organizations devoted to arts and culture, the environment, education, children and families, youth, and animal welfare.