Exploring Accountability: Language & the Law

He kissed her without asking first. He forced his lips on hers without consent. See the difference? Language is a powerful tool in the creation of social norms. When we consider sexual assault, language can serve to expose or conceal violence. The criminal justice system, like the media, is a social norm creator, and uses language as a primary tool.

For over four years, the Sexual Assault Network’s Judicial Language Project (Ottawa) has worked to highlight problematic language in sexual assault cases, and advocate for the use of accurate language. The session will explore the research that the Network has done over the past four years through the use of case examples, and present their work in the context of a larger criminal justice accountability model.

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Stefanie Lomatski

Stefanie Lomatski is an Ottawa based advocate and community builder who, for over ten years, has worked in the anti-violence community. Stefanie has a reputation for being able to merge her understanding of pressing social issues with exceptional strategic planning, in order to craft and steward innovative programs that meet community needs.

Stefanie has a Masters of Social Work, with a focus on gender-based violence, and has held diverse roles throughout her career from frontline support worker to the Executive Director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.

Currently, Stefanie is the Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Network. Most notably in this role, Stefanie has steered the growth of Project SoundCheckTM; a project which seeks to prevent sexual harassment and assault at large events, venues, and festivals. Stefanie and the project have been featured in both Canadian media, as well as international publications such as the LA Times. With Stefanie’s leadership the program has trained thousands of volunteers, staff, and organizers, and is in the process of working with local politicians to embedded bystander intervention training into the event permit process. When asked about the success of the project, Stefanie cites the importance of including artists, volunteers, advocates, and music industry leaders, because without their insight the project would not ever meet the goal of preventing sexual violence.

Within the role of Sexual Assault Network Coordinator, Stefanie has also worked to raise awareness of the Judicial Language Project - Ottawa; a project that seeks to address problematic language in the court system. Similar to Stefanie’s other work, this is the first Canadian version of this project, and holds great promise to address language which maintains rape culture in the courts.

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Halina Siedlikowski

Judicial Language Project

Halina Siedlikowski's work with survivors of sexual violence began in the late 70's when she was part of the first group of volunteers staffing a rape crisis line at a sexual assault center in Montreal. She has a Master's degree in Nursing from McGill University and a certification in Psychiatric and Mental health nursing from the Canadian Nurses' Association. In the late 80's she was a board member of the Burlington Women's Rape Crisis Center in Vermont and was the founding Coordinator of the hospital-based Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program at the Ottawa Hospital for 11 years. She has taught nursing at the University of Ottawa for the next 11 years and has been the Manager of Nursing Undergraduate programs at the university for the last 2 years.She has been a continuous and active member of both the Sexual Assault Network and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence against Women. She has held several leadership positions within these networks over the years. Her involvement with SAN over the past 5 years has been as an Advisory member, overseeing the work of Pro-Bono Law students who have been working on a project focusing on judicial language.