A Year In Review | Section 1: Response and Support Team
The Response and Support team is the focal point of SMRC’s operations. SMRC tracks, in aggregate, information related to contacts received by the team in order to identify and communicate trends and issues. The following sections provide a detailed description of contacts received and services provided by the Response and Support team.
1.1 - Client Characteristics
During the past fiscal year, a total of 392 individuals contacted the SMRC either by phone or email. Of the 392 individuals, 278 (71%) were CAF members and 114 (29%) were Non-CAF individuals. Non-CAF individuals included former CAF members, Cadets, Department of National Defence (DND) civilian employees, Non-Public Fund (NPF) employees and other civilians.
The Centre received a total of 558 contacts from the 392 individuals, indicating multiple contacts with some individuals. In fact, 15% of the CAF members who contacted SMRC did so more than once. This demonstrates that some individuals require on-going support, or that their needs evolve over time. Some also require multiple contacts before deciding to make an official report. This demonstrates the importance of having a main point of contact and highlights the need for an expansion in mandate and service delivery to include an on-going supportive role, such as a Victim Liaison Assistant or Case Manager role.
SMRC provides services to any of the following members:
- Regular Force
- Primary Reserve
- Supplementary Reserve
- Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service
Figure 3 compares the number of individuals who contacted the SMRC in 2017-2018 in comparison to in 2016-2017. As indicated, a total of 392 individuals contacted SMRC in 2017-2018 in comparison to 410 in 2016-2017. While 12% fewer CAF members contacted SMRC in 2017-2018 compared with 2016-2017, 23% more Non-CAF individuals contacted SMRC in 2017-2018 as compared to 2016-2017.
Figure 4 depicts the profile of the 278 CAF members who contacted the SMRC: 103 (37%) were members of the chain of command, 81 (29%) were affected by some form of sexual misconduct, 42 (15%) were seeking information on the subject of sexual misconduct, and 30 (11%) were third party individuals who were aware of an incident of sexual misconduct.
These results are similar to those in 2016-2017 where 37% of individuals were members of the chain of command, 31% were directly affected by an incident of sexual misconduct, and 10% were third party individuals.
Chain of Command: Person representing the Chain of Command of someone or a unit affected by SM. They self-identify as calling on behalf of a subordinate, a superior, or due to their leadership responsibilities.
Affected Person: Person directly affected by an incident of sexual misconduct.
Information Seeker: Person contacting the Centre is not calling about a specific incident but requires general information.
Third Party / Friend / Colleague: The person contacting the Centre is not the person directly affected and has not witnessed the event.
Bystander: Person contacting the Centre advises they have witnessed a behavior which they believe constitutes SM.
Alleged Perpetrator: Person contacting the Centre advises they have been accused of SM.
Family Member: Family member of the Affected Person.
Figure 5 depicts the profile of the 114 Non-CAF individuals who contacted SMRC: 34 (30%) were former CAF members, 29 (25%) were DND civilians, 27 (24%) were civilians, 1 (1%) was a Cadet, 1 (1%) was a Non-Public Fund employee, and 22 (19%) did not identify who they were, but the nature of their calls suggested that they were not CAF members. The fact that SMRC provides support to an increasing number of individuals outside their official mandate speaks to the need for services for these individuals. More importantly, it speaks to the need to review SMRC’s mandate for possible expansion of clientele.
Figure 6 shows the gender distribution of the 278 CAF members who contacted SMRC in 2017-2018: 155 (56 %) identified as male, 121 (43%) identified as female and 2 (1%) were of unknown gender. The fact that the majority of individuals contacting the SMRC are male makes sense given that the majority of CAF members are male and that 37% of individuals contacting the SMRC are members of the chain of command. In contrast, of the 81 individuals who identified as directly affected by sexual misconduct, 60 (74%) were female compared to 20 (25%) who were male. The relative proportion of males versus females contacting the SMRC is identical to that of 2016-2017, however, the proportion of males directly affected by sexual misconduct was 3% higher in 2017-2018. This is an encouraging trend, given that the absolute number of male victims, based on the 2016 Statistics Canada Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the CAF, is likely higher than the number of female victims, given the greater number of males in the CAF.
Reasons for contact
Sexual assault: A term used to refer to all incidents of unwanted sexual activity, including sexual attacks and sexual touching.
Sexual harassment: Any behaviour, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature conducted by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace and which the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offense or harm.
Inappropriate sexual behaviour: Unacceptable language/jokes, sexist or sexually demeaning comments, inappropriate pictures, adverse personal relationships.
Other sexual offence:
Any other sexual offence not defined as assault, harassment or inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Figure 7 indicates the reasons why CAF members contacted the SMRC. Ninety-one (33%) contacted SMRC for support regarding sexual assault while 63 (23%) sought support related to sexual harassment and 58 (21%) sought support related to inappropriate sexual behaviour.
In comparing the reasons for contact over the last two years, there were 7% more individuals who contacted SMRC for matters related to incidents of sexual assault and a 4% increase for incidents related to sexual harassment in 2017-2018. There was a 5% decrease in the number of CAF members who contacted SMRC for a reason outside of its mandate, suggesting that awareness efforts and increased familiarity with SMRC over time may be having an impact.
Fifty-seven percent of CAF members indicated that they had previously disclosed what had happened to them, in most cases to their chain of command. In contrast, in 2016-2017 only 32% of CAF members had previously reported. This is an encouraging trend and highlights the need for an expansion in mandate and service delivery to implement a Victim Liaison Assistant and Case Management role in order to provide on-going support.
In 2017-2018, there was a total of 393 interactions between CAF members and the SMRC Counsellors, including follow up contacts. For each contact, Counsellors track the support services provided. Figure 8 indicates the frequency with which each type of support was provided. The total does not add up to 100% as individuals can be provided with more than one support service per contact.
As shown below, provision of information is the most frequent type of support provided to CAF members, in 346 (88%) of contacts, followed by facilitated access to the military liaison team for 123 (31%) of contacts. Eighty-seven contacts (22%) were provided with supportive counselling, 27 (7%) received a live transfer to the military liaison team, and one contact required crisis intervention.
Facilitated access: SMRC Counsellor provides the Military Liaison Team’s contact information to the individual or vice versa.
Live transfer: SMRC Counsellor immediately and successfully connects an individual with a member of the Military Liaison Team.
Direct contact: Individual contacts a member of the Military Liaison Team directly.
Supportive counselling: Non-therapeutic approach that is person-centered.
Crisis intervention: Provision of immediate, short-term assistance to individuals experiencing an event that produces emotional, mental, physical and behavioural distress or problems.
In addition to providing support to CAF members affected by sexual misconduct, SMRC has a mandate to provide subject matter expertise to CAF. In most cases this expertise was provided by members of the Response and Support team or by the Executive Director. The majority of the requests came from the CAF Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct (CSRT-SM) regarding the development of initiatives such as Virtual Peer Support, Bystander Intervention Training and the Respect in the CAF mobile application. The Response and Support Team also provided expertise on how to respond to disclosures of sexual misconduct and on issues related to consent.
Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Directorate of Mental Health of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group sought expertise from the SMRC regarding gender differences and best practices in the field of sexual trauma, and VAC also sought input regarding potential links between having experienced sexual misconduct and suicidality.
The SMRC provided expertise to three separate chains of command following incidents of sexual misconduct in their units. These sessions focused on the various impacts of sexual misconduct on both parties involved in the incident, and on morale and cohesiveness in the workplace. SMRC staff endeavored to empower commanders to support their units effectively by providing them with strategies to support their employees and information to deliver, being present during presentations, or delivering sessions to leaders and/or units.
From a Response and Support perspective, the benefits of these sessions were particularly valuable. Leaders play an integral role in mitigating the emotional and psychological effects after an incident of sexual misconduct, by ensuring that all unit members have the information and support they need. These sessions also provided an opportunity for outreach to inform members about SMRC services.
In addition to providing expertise in response to formal requests, Response and Support team staff are members of various working groups, including one related to gender-based violence, Total Health and Wellness, and a subcommittee of the latter.
On July 24, 2017, SMRC officially launched a one-year pilot of 24/7 service delivery. The expansion of operating hours was to ensure that all CAF members would have access to support on a 24/7 basis, whether deployed internationally or domestically, and the implementation of this service expansion was included as a priority in the 2016-2017 Annual Report. After completing an impact and cost analysis on multiple courses of action for the expansion of hours, and not knowing the actual demand for the service, SMRC adopted a human resource model that involves a rotational stand-by schedule for Counsellors. The new service delivery model necessitated the acquisition of a call centre solution to allow sustainable and seamless provision of service from remote locations, but in addition, it allows a number of call management services like equitable distribution of calls to available Counsellors and tracking of call duration. The pilot was evaluated after 6 months and trends were in the expected direction. More importantly, the 6-month review identified a number of technological challenges that needed to be addressed. The one-year pilot evaluation report will be completed in August 2018.
In seeking to better support deployed members who are affected by sexual misconduct, SMRC led a full-day facilitated discussion with representatives from Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), Canadian Special Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), CSRT-SM and SMRC. Operators, Health Services, and Public Affairs staff were present. The discussion was scenario based and involved a sexual assault committed against a CAF member by a member from an allied force, within a multinational brigade. Participants examined issues such as the technical agreements prepared in advance of deployments, jurisdictional issues within multi-national command structures, availability of victim support, availability of communication technology to be able to contact SMRC confidentially, reporting, and managing internal and external communications. The ED submitted a letter to the Deputy Commander of CJOC highlighting some observations for consideration, with a recommendation for another such exercise.
SMRC initiated mechanisms to engage victim stakeholders on an on-going basis. One mechanism is that SMRC has established regular meetings with representatives from Its Just 700, a group of current and former CAF members who have experienced sexual misconduct while in service. These stakeholders are keen to participate in CAF’s responses to sexual misconduct, including assisting with individual cases and systemic change. SMRC and IJ700 members are currently considering how best to operationalize this in ways that are effective, that respect privacy and confidentiality, and that are not inadvertently harmful to individuals given the on-going impact of their lived experiences. Other engagement mechanisms are less formal, but include on-going email communication with specific individuals or groups of individuals who want to share information and ideas for consideration. Finally, a representative from IJ700 is a member of the External Advisory Council that has been established, to bring these important perspectives to the discussion.
To fulfill the SMRC’s mandate to maintain a cadre of professionally trained Counsellors who can deliver efficient and effective support services, all Counsellors participate in a standardized training program. SMRC has refined the training framework to specify the mandatory training that Counsellors and Senior Counsellors must complete to become and remain proficient. This framework, completed in March 2018, includes mandatory Public Service and corporate training, job-specific learning activities, and professional development opportunities. New Counsellors undergo a thorough orientation program, which includes training, shadowing of an experienced Counsellor and complex case discussions. Job-specific learning activities refer to courses that are deemed compulsory for Counsellors in order to maintain a high level of knowledge on the impacts of sexual trauma, the military environment, and crisis intervention. Professional development opportunities include workshops and conferences on relevant issues, as well as projects, stretch assignments and shadowing opportunities.
The training framework will continue to develop based on evolving needs of the clientele, as well as new learning opportunities that become available. SMRC’s goal is to equip its Counsellors with the most up-to-date knowledge and skills to appropriately address trends and the growing complexities of sexual misconduct. SMRC is currently examining possibilities for certification in working with victims, similar to what is available in the United States.
Finally, the Senior Counsellors and Team Leader are members in good standing with the College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, which requires them to complete new training yearly to maintain competency. Although not required by a governing body, all the Counsellors maintain competency by engaging in online trainings and webinars, conferences, workshops and other trainings offered by the Public Service.
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