4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa Personnel Services Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Nolan shakes hands with Sexual Misconduct Response Centre Executive Director Glynnis French and presents her with a coin. French and her team visited Garrison Petawawa on May 13 to bring awareness to the services it offers. (Submitted photo)

Sexual Misconduct Response Centre helping victims anonymously

Community News

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre has been established to fill gaps in the system by providing victim support services.

Individuals who have been subjected to harmful or inappropriate sexual behaviour by members of the Canadian Armed Forces have access to this centre where they can receive confidential help and supportive counseling.

“Their privacy is fully protected, and they can remain anonymous until they want to formally report,” said Executive Director Glynnis French. “They can work through their options as well as working through many of the difficult emotions that they may experience as a result of the incident that they have been a part of.”

Sexual misconduct can range from inappropriate comments and jokes to sexual violence. This centre addresses them all, helping people create strategies to deal with issues early on, and to prevent them from escalating. Men are just as likely to be a target, and they often keep it a more tightly guarded secret, reacting in a different way, noted French.

As such the centre is tailored to deal with anybody, regardless of gender or rank.

“It is a myth that perpetrators are only men,” said French. “Often we have men and women who are both victims and perpetrators for sexual misconduct… (Men) often adopt a macho kind of approach in the military, which makes it harder for them in some ways to deal with incidents of sexual assault and harassment.”

The centre supports individuals in the way they desire - if they feel they just need to talk, highly trained counselors are in place to listen. If they are looking into their options before making a decision on how to proceed, the centre facilitates access to services and resources. If a victim does not want to report the issue, the centre supports them as well.

“We will support the person in the way that they want to be supported,” said Senior Counselor Mireille Eujold. “Sometimes it is just providing them with appropriate language so they can go back to the person who made the inappropriate joke and have a sit-down and tell them that it bothered them.”

They do so in a way that the victim is comfortable with, in a language that will be understood. Managing expectations is also a key point.

“Men tend not to want to report because of different reasons. It can be a fear of repercussion or being made fun of by their peers,” said Eugold. “So it is really about empowering them about making the right decisions and push forward so it actually stops.”

Born from Operation Honour and based out of Ottawa, the centre offers compassion and respect. It opened its doors on Sept. 15, 2015 to the public, and they are still in the period called “initial operating capacity.” French and her team have been travelling to bases across Canada to speak about what is offered. She made a stop in Petawawa on May 13 to discuss the centre with garrison soldiers.

“We are considering whether or not we need satellite offices as we move towards full operating capacity,” said French. “But that decision has not been (made).”

Initially the operating hours were from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST), but those hours will extend to 8 p.m. by the end of May. This will cover all the time zones in Canada. Longer hours have been seen as more important than additional offices at the moment.

The centre also partners with outside, non-military services as well as military police, health services and chaplains.

“We need to be aware of local services and only fill the gap where there is a gap and not duplicate services,” said French.

To reach a professional counselors looking to support you in the way you desire, please contact 1-844-750-1648.