‘We're doing this, so women don't have to experience what we did, including women in the community’
Ontario policewomen flew an aerial banner reading “Stop Police Sexual Violence Against Women #Tarnishedbadge #MeToo” on Monday and Wednesday in response to reported sexual assault, harassment and reprisals allegedly perpetrated by members of several Ontario Police Services.
“We are fighting for women everywhere, and there's nothing we won't do to fight against sexual violence,” said Constable Effy Zarabi, of Toronto Police, who made her first report of sexual harassment to Toronto Police in 2014, though her matters remain ongoing. “We want them to see we're not intimidated by retaliation and reprisals anymore, and we will not remain silent."
The #Tarnishedbadge is a twitter campaign, named after an episode of CTV's W5 which featured several female officers from across Canada. The two-hour flight traced the 400 series highways on Monday and circulated the downtown Toronto area for another two hours on Wednesday.
“The acts, and subsequent cover-ups of sexual violence in policing [have] been occurring for decades. We're bringing awareness to sexual violence in police culture,” said Constable Heather McWilliam, who recently won a six-year-long sexual assault and harassment case before The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against the Toronto Police Service. Her plight for equality began in 2012.
Constable Amy Matthijsse, of Cobourg Police Service, was another policewoman who experienced alleged harassment in the hands of police. She was suspended and charged with 19 counts of misconduct under the Police Services Act after reporting sexual harassment to her employer. The charges were later dropped.
“We're doing this so women don't have to experience what we did, including women in the community,” she said.
"If we don't talk about this, nothing will change, and we will continue to lose our careers and health," said Zarabi. “Women and girls in the community will not be safe until sexual assault and harassment within policing is addressed.”
Twitter users had positive things to say about the protest.
“They will not be silenced. Huge props to this group of policewomen continuing to shine a spotlight on workplace violence/abuse despite the overwhelming cost and ongoing retaliation by their employers,” said Lesley Bikos, an ex-police officer, in a tweet.
“We need more of this! These officers are taking collective action against sexual misconduct in policing,” tweeted The Lamplighter Project.
Recently, Yukon approved the Violence and Harassment Prevention Regulation, a regulation that the government said will help to foster a positive culture in the workplace as well as physical and psychological safety for Yukon workers.
In March, British Columbia started looking into a new bill that aims to provide up to five days of paid leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence.