Minister, Zimbabwean woman launch Sexual Violence Awareness Week

Josh Pennell
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Women who have suffered sexual violence in this province and  around the world are being remembered this week.

Charlene Johnson, the minister responsible for the Status of Women and lead minister for the Violence Prevention Initiative, launched Sexual Violence Awareness Week Monday from the lobby of the Confederation Building.

“I continue to see that sexual violence knows no order, colour, no race, no age,” Johnson said.

Breaking Outside of the Box: Changing the Conversation Surrounding Sexual Violence in Newfoundland and Labrador is the theme for Sexual Vilonence Week 2013.

Johnson had the numbers to show how susceptible women continue to be victims of violence, not only in other parts of the world, but here in this province.

A fact sheet handed out at the event listed the staggering statistic that of the 217, 900 women over the age of 15 living in Newfoundland and Labrador, approximately one in two  will experience at least one incident of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.

Of those women, 10 per cent will report the victimization to police, although only five per cent are unable to identify their abuser.

Most women in this province who are assaulted — 70 per cent — are victimized by their spouse or partner. A further five per cent will be assaulted by a former partner or spouse. Seven per cent will be assaulted by a relative and a further five per cent will be assaulted by someone other than those mentioned.

For all the women who have experienced a violent act, whether it was reported it or not, Johnson said the government was doing something to recognize them and, hopefully, help them feel as though they’re not alone.

“We have lowered the flags outside Confederation Building today to mark this week in honour of you all and observe such an important date.”

Johnson was joined at the launch of Sexual Violence Awareness Week by special guest Netty Masanhu of Zimbabwe, who is an advocate for women’s rights, a spokeswoman for women who have been the victim of an assault and a public speaker.

Masanhu spoke of violent crimes in her part of the world and abroad, saying she was representing women who have been through the terror of gang rape.

“Sexual violence has been used as a weapon for war. It’s been used as a weapon to weaken women. It’s been used as a weapon to exclude women from participation. It’s been used as a weapon for the total exclusion of women from politics.”

Masanhu said that breaking the culture of silence — the stigma connected to rape that keeps so many women from speaking — is important.

“Rape is not about sex. It’s about power. It’s about power and control,” she said.

Following her speech, Masanhu and the crowd gathered in the Confederation Building lobby were treated to several songs by the local Zimbabwe choir, BLAZE.

To see a performance by BLAZE, go to

Organizations: Confederation Building

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Zimbabwe

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