OUR VALUES AND BELIEFS
(Note: COPA’s values and beliefs are presented randomly, not in order of importance or priority.)
(Note: The term « children » denotes any person under 18 years of age.)
COPA considers children to be a marginalized group in our society. Due to this generally unrecognized and unquestioned social status, children as a group are particularly vulnerable to assault.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA strive to recognize children’s marginalization and to advocate for their rights, particularly the right of each child to be “safe, strong and free”.
(Note: The term “safe, strong and free” is trademarked by COPA, appearing in all its programs and resources. It refers to the fundamental right of all human beings to live free from all forms of violence. Creators of the Child Assault Prevention (CAP) Project (Women Against Rape, see details below), COPA’s core program, conceived of this term as a tool for presenting the notion of rights and personal limits to young children, enabling them to engage in age-appropriate discussions about assault prevention that are adapted to their developmental level. The term is effective for use with all age groups including adults.)
COPA believes that abuse of power is the basis of all situations involving assault. Lack of power links all forms of violence, whether it is verbal, sexual, physical, psychological, institutional or financial, whether it is perpetrated against a person or a group of people, or against a child, a woman or a member of any other marginalized social group.
It follows that lack of power – social or personal – underlies all situations involving assault, which is by definition an abuse of power.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA are based on a definition of assault informed by a feminist analysis of the power dynamics inherent in all forms and situations of assault.
Equity and Inclusion
COPA believes that all structures, institutions and relationships in our society are predicated upon inequity and social exclusion leading to the marginalization of children, women and other social groups. Inequity and exclusion are rooted in and perpetuated by a set of systemic, pervasive and discriminatory beliefs and practices.
Inequity and exclusion increase people’s vulnerability to assault, triggering and perpetuating a cycle of violence against children, women and all other marginalized social groups.
Strategies for assault prevention are only effective if they aim to promote equity and inclusion by facilitating the individual and collective empowerment of socially marginalized groups and individuals.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA are based on an anti-oppression approach. Such an approach recognizes the link between all forms of oppression and seeks to prevent assault through the promotion of social equity and inclusion of children, women and all other socially marginalized groups.
Intersecting layers of power and privilege
COPA recognizes that an individual can simultaneously identify with multiple social groups with different levels of social status. When this occurs, the individual experiences intersections between the varied layers of their power and privilege. The blending of multiple identities leads to an acutely personal experience that constructs that individual’s distinct identity. Experiencing multiple levels of oppression may also exacerbate an individual’s vulnerability to inequity and exclusion, particularly assault.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA strive to identify and recognize the specific lived experiences of all people. This involves listening to the voices of marginalized people in all their diversity and ensuring these voices are heard.
Factors of Vulnerability
COPA believes that certain social factors – such as a lack of information, dependence and isolation – make children and women (and all marginalized social groups) particularly vulnerable to assault.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA strive to reduce the vulnerability of children (and women, and members of all marginalized social groups) to assault. COPA promotes strategies that address these factors by facilitating their skill development, increasing their options, expanding their mobility and their ability to take action, providing information, encouraging peer support and expanding their personal and community resources. COPA’s strategies seek to reduce children’s vulnerability (and that of women and all marginalized group) at both an individual and a collective level.
(Note: This analysis of the social factors that increase the vulnerability to violence of members of marginalized social groups was originally developed by the group Women Against Rape in 1978 in Columbus, Ohio in the United States. This conceptual framework lays the foundation for the Child Assault Prevention (CAP) Project – COPA’s core program – and for the entire body of COPA’s programming and resources. The theory has remained as relevant, valid and applicable to this day as it was when originally created in 1978.)
COPA recognizes that people’s sexual orientations are diverse and the gender of every human being exists on a continuum.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA seek to include the lived experiences and realities of people of all sexual orientations and all forms of gender expression.
Power Dynamics Based on Sex and the Specificity of Sexist Violence
COPA recognizes that all people who identify as girls or women are exposed to a form of social marginalization based on sexism, a distinct and specific form of social inequity and exclusion. Sexism is the root cause of diverse manifestations of the inequity and exclusion of people who identify as girls or women, of which sexist violence is one example.
COPA recognizes the gravity of all forms of sexist violence, a reality that is perpetuated by secrecy and silence. COPA also recognizes that the form, nature, frequency and causes of sexist violence are distinct from those forms of violence that are perpetrated against other marginalized groups, as are the power dynamics at play.
Therefore the specific characteristics of sexist violence and the particular vulnerability of people who identify as girls or women are taken into consideration whenever resources and activities are created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA.
Child Sexual Assault Including Children Who Identify as Boys
COPA believes that children in all their diversity are vulnerable to sexual assault due to their marginalized social status. Child sexual assault is a hidden and underestimated reality. COPA also recognizes that sexual assault of children who identify as boys is particularly hidden and underestimated. Consequently, it is important to expose and shift this reality in order to break the cycle of violence and ensure that all children, including those who identify as boys, and all people, are safe, strong and free. By doing so, we foster the creation of healthy, equal relationships and environments.
Therefore COPA condemns sexual assault perpetrated against children in all their diversity – including those who identify as boys – and expends every possible effort to eliminate this form of assault.
Link Between Violence Against Children and Other Marginalized Social Groups
COPA believes there is a link between the causes and forms of violence against children and that of violence against women (and all socially marginalized groups). Consequently, COPA asserts that in order to prevent violence against children, it is necessary prevent violence against women (and all socially marginalized groups).
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA strive to underscore the link between violence against children and women (and other socially marginalized groups) and the social factors that increase their vulnerability to violence.
The Cycle of Violence
COPA believes there is a cycle of violence increasing the likelihood that violence will be perpetuated from one generation to the next. The cycle can be attributed to a range of individual and social factors that maintain children and women (and all marginalized social groups) in vulnerable situations.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA aim to break the cycle of violence against children and women (and all marginalized social groups). The goal is to promote positive change through reflection, learning, skill and knowledge-building, by changing attitudes and beliefs, and by changing social structures that contribute to perpetuating the cycle of violence.
In order to prevent violence and promote the rights of children and all marginalized social groups, COPA advocates an approach that fosters their individual and collective empowerment. This approach highlights and validates the needs, skills, strengths and abilities of children, women and other marginalized social groups.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA aim to build children’s knowledge and to recognize and develop their abilities, as well as their individual and collective resources.
Fostering children’s ability to resist assault and engage in peer support are essential components of assault prevention. That said, COPA asserts that ultimately, children’s wellbeing remains the responsibility of adults – not only those who care for them, but all adults in our society. To this end, COPA is committed to encouraging and reinforcing adults’ motivation and to build their capacity to engage in child and teen assault prevention.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA aim to raise adults’ awareness while offering them tools and skills enabling them to recognize and alter the factors that perpetuate assault. COPA invites all members of the broader community to engage with child assault prevention efforts and initiatives in order to ensure that all children and all people can exercise their fundamental right to be “safe, strong and free”.
COPA identifies as a francophone organization, committed to ensuring the provision of French language services as a priority. This commitment is based on the recognition that historically, Franco-Ontarians were denied the right to thrive and develop fully as a social group, a right that is still denied to this day.
Therefore COPA maintains a Francophone identity and all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA seek to highlight and validate the strength, capacity and identity of Franco-Ontarian communities.
COPA believes that by recognizing and celebrating diversity within communities throughout Ontario, we can break the cycle of violence predicated upon ignorance, hatred and fear of differences. A world where children (and all people) perceive differences as a source of richness is a world where each person can be “safe, strong and free”.
Therefore all resources and activities created, developed, adapted and disseminated by COPA strive to lessen fear and hatred of differences and to explicitly illustrate and express the value of differences in our society. This includes differences based on gender identity, age, physical appearance and ability, intellectual ability, sexual identity, ethnocultural origins, language, religion, socio-economic level and immigration or refugee status.
Accessibility to Services
COPA’s primary purpose is to promote feminist values and principles founded on strategies aimed at equity and inclusion. In the long term, COPA seeks to promote the rights and prevent the assault of children in all their diversity (and of all marginalized groups). To realize this vision, COPA always strives to hear children’s needs, to understand their lived experience and to respond adequately to these.
Therefore COPA takes all necessary measures and validates all steps aimed at ensuring that all members of society have access to its resources and can participate in its activities. COPA recognizes the value and importance of efforts at all levels of the organization to eliminate obstacles and ensure accessibility to its programs and resources in the community at large.
COPA recognizes the contribution and the importance – historically, in the current context and in the future – of feminist activists in the child assault prevention movement.
Therefore COPA encourages the leadership of feminist activists in the struggle against sexist violence within the organization and in the delivery of services. COPA encourages partnerships with institutional and community services where the specific expertise of feminist activists in the areas of violence against women, its impacts on children and its prevention, is recognized.