Ottawa

Ottawa rally for rape victims urges better care

More than 100 demonstrators gathered on Ottawa's Elgin Street on Tuesday to demand improved care for victims of sexual assault.

More than 100 demonstrators gathered on Ottawa's Elgin Street on Tuesday to demand improved care for victims of sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Support Centre organized the rally at the human rights monument after a woman came forward to say she had been turned away from the Ottawa Hospital last week because there were no nurses available who were trained to handle sexual assault cases.

The woman said she had to drive to Renfrew to have a rape kit administered.

"The grassroots is mobilized, and people should give a damn about this issue," rally organizer Julie Lalonde told the crowd as she stood atop the monument.

"This isn't a new problem," added the centre's Susan Havart. "We've had women turned away a lot, but this is the first time a woman was brave enough to talk to the media about it."

The Ottawa Hospital says a sexual assault nurse will now be available within an hour of when a victim shows up, whether it be during the day or night.

That's not good enough for Diane Gordon, a volunteer crisis line worker and a rape victim herself. 

Gordon said she hesitates when recommending callers go to the hospital.

"Professionally, I would say yes, but personally, I would say no," she said. "I would hope that by sending them there, there would be someone there, but I'm not confident at this time."

Robert Graham, whose mother was sexually assaulted, said he attended the rally because he wants violence against women to end.

"What she said was, 'When I didn't kiss a boy at the end of the night one time, he pulled my hair until he pulled long strands of hair out of my head.' That stuck with me ever since."

In the past year, 348 women reported being raped or sexually assaulted, Ottawa police say.

However, several people at the rally said many more victims were too afraid to call police.