#MeToo movement leading to increased calls, say P.E.I. advocates

Island organizations who advocate for women's rights say they are getting more calls since the rise of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

'It has sort of opened the door to many women that felt they had nowhere to go to talk about it'

Women are posting 'me too' on social media to indicate they have been sexually harassed or assaulted. (Mihai Surdu/Shutterstock)

Island organizations who advocate for women's rights say they are getting more calls since the rise of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

Women are looking to talk while more businesses and groups are looking to take a more proactive approach when it comes to harassment, according to advocates.

The East Prince Women's Information Centre (EPWIC) said more women than ever are coming to them to share their stories and seek support

"I really think that it has sort of opened the door to many women that felt they had nowhere to go to talk about it or to deal with it," said Andy Lou Somers, executive director of EPWIC. 

"Once they have come in to talk about it and find out that there is lots of help out there for them, it's like a big weight off their shoulders."

Nearly 200 women, men and children took to the streets of Charlottetown to walk in the second annual March for Equality on P.E.I. in January. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Somers said word of mouth has helped women find out about Island services. They plan to offer more sessions on harassment, sexual harassment, employment standards in the upcoming months.

We'll help direct them in the right place they have to go to and there is support and there is help and we believe them.— Andy Lou Somers, EPWIC

She said EPWIC has experienced twice the numbers of calls since the movements began and that it is important for organizations such as hers to keep up the support.

"They can come in and talk and it's all confidential, and we'll help direct them in the right place they have to go to and there is support and there is help and we believe them," Somers said.

Brenda Picard, executive director of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission, says more companies and groups are looking for educational workshops on sexual harassment since the rise of the #MeToo movement. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

The P.E.I. Human Rights Commission is one place to go if there is a complaint about harassment.

While the commission has not noticed an increase in complaints, they have heard from companies and organizations requesting educational workshops.

Education is the key

"We started noticing it right away in October when the press coverage started in early October, I think we had three calls that week," said Brenda Picard, executive director of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission.

Picard says they will be updating their written and online educational materials, including the information on sexual harassment. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"I would say that a quick look at the numbers would indicate we've had three times as many requests in the second half of the fiscal year since the October Me Too movement started as we have had in the first half of the year, and that's specifically targeted at harassment."

The commission is planning to update their written and online educational materials, including one on sexual harassment.

There is lots of work to be done and it's nice to see that things are moving in a positive direction.— Brenda Picard

Picard said she is pleased that more companies are looking to take the initiative and prevent things from happening in the first place.

"We are still seeing complaints and we are still seeing people talking anecdotally, even if they don't file a complaint, they call and talk to us a little bit," Picard said. 

"There is lots of work to be done and it's nice to see that things are moving in a positive direction." 

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown

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