On Tuesday, October 6th, over a hundred people gathered at the steps of the Confederation Building here in St. John’s to demand justice for sexual assault survivors.
Bystanders of the rally heard women share their stories of their own sexual assaults and their beliefs that the justice system has failed them. At times very difficult and brave stories were told as tears were shed and anger expressed amongst those of us huddled against the cold. The speakers read moving poetry and anonymous stories.
As the accused rapist Douglas Snelgrove enters his third trial for sexual assault after two mistrials due to mistakes in the court system, and registered sex offender Stephen Hopkins has allegedly reoffended and sexually assaulted another woman not more than two weeks ago, folks around the city have begun questioning whether or not the justice system of Newfoundland Labrador can protect women.
With the recent prominence of these cases in our province coupled with her own experiences with the Newfoundland Labrador justice system, the protest’s organizer Shauna-Lynn Williams claims she felt something had to be done.
Heather Elliot also spoke at the rally. She has recently been standing outside of the Supreme Court on Water St. with signs to show support for Jane Doe, the plaintiff and survivor in the Douglas Snelgrove case. When asked if she had anything specific to say to Jane Doe, Williams said simply, “We believe you”.
The Journey Project, a St. John’s outreach program, handed out resources at the rally to support survivors of sexual assault. They provide “Sexual Violence Legal Support Services” including free legal counsel for women survivors.