Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group (SPCG) was founded by a group of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans united by the common thread of all being survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
Starting as a small peer support group to help us be accountable to each other in our healing journeys, Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group evolved as a way to help alleviate the current MST crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces. Joining our unique abilities and strengths, we are now reaching out, as volunteeers, to other survivors to create an organization that will help bring a solution that gets to the root of the systemic issues within the Canadian Armed Forces.
We trusted the leadership when they promised that they would listen to our stories of systemic assault, rape, harassment and abuse, and that they would fix it. We have been holding on and standing by, for decades now, watching as endless research is conducted in the name of "doing this right".
We tried to offer our perspective, but were told it was too intense, or worse, we did not really know what we were talking about. The most recent training program was an excellent first step, but it cannot be the only one offered. It was a voluntary resource, not mandatory at all, and done from an organizational perspective. These past few months have shown us that the attempt (so far) were not enough alone. The Canadian Armed Forces is in crisis. The glimmer of trust we still had in the institution, in the Canadian Armed Forces leadership, has now been eroded completely. We have no confidence; we cannot trust. But we do still have hope. There is no silver bullet, but we have a powerful and proven tool.
We feel we have the experience, the dedication, and the ability to help find the right solutions. We are the unfortunate experts in military sexual trauma. We are the ones that lived and breathed the toxic sexualized workplace. We are the Survivors. And we have a voice. Let us be heard.
Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group will help enact much needed positive change.
Donna Riguidel, Major
Major Donna Riguidel joined the Communications Reserve in 1993, leaving in 1997 as a result of MST. After her daughter was born, she decided to rejoin out of a sense of responsibility to those still in uniform to try and work on the issue. She has worked as a Public Affairs Officer with the RCAF and the CA as a full time reservist since 2006. In the process of being medically released due to PTSD, she still retains hope that we can address the issue. Once she is out of the military, she plans to attend medical school and become a trauma-informed physician, continuing the effort.
“99% of the members I worked with were outstanding professionals. I owe it to them, to help fix this issue. We owe it to anyone that follows us and joins the CAF to make things better. I owe it to 17 year old me, that was abused, scared and alone. That is my promise.”
Carly Arkell, Major (Ret)
Carly Arkell joined the Naval Reserve at age 16. At 19 she transferred to the Regular Force through the Regular Officer Training Program (ROTP) to become an Aerospace Engineering Officer (AERE). Throughout her career she supported domestic and deployed operations for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the Canadian Army (CA), as well as the Canadian Special Operations Force Command (CANSOFCOM) Highlights include technical assistance visit to Afghanistan in 2006 and posting to 431 Squadron (Snowbirds) as the Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Officer. Carly has extensive experience in working in NDHQ and after career altering medical issues, which were aggravated by the MST, she shifted focus from supporting CAF operations to being an internal activist working for change from within the institution. She briefly worked with the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) until she had to stop working completely due to health complications. Carly was medically released in January 2021 with over 22 years of service.
Carly testified as a witness at the 2019 Senate Committee Hearing on Bill C77 (An Act to amend the National Defence Act) and how it intersects with the Canadian Victims' Bill of Rights. Prior to joining the Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group, Carly was the Vice President of the Women Warriors' Healing Garden Board of Directors.
"Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is not unique to any particular group of CAF members, it is not based on the colour of your uniform, nor the rank on your epaulette; it happens to all kinds of people. It also impacts more than just the victim, the perpetrator, and the CAF; it permeates through us and touches everyone in our lives, especially our families and close friends. I am keenly interested in exactly how far that impact reaches and how in turn in comes back to impact the CAF itself, as an organization."
Cassandra Elliot, Cpl (Ret)
Cassandra Elliott joined the CAF in 2009 as a reserve medic. In 2010 she transferred to the reg force because of a sexual assault during an exercise and joined the RCEME (Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) Corps as a vehicle technician. She served at CFB Edmonton until she was medically released in 2019 as a result of a broken back sustained in a work accident. Cassandra has been working with various military and civilian professionals since 2016 to help members who have experienced MST navigate the convoluted investigatory processes in the CAF.
"There are blatant loopholes that higher ups have to delay or completely block survivors access to justice and it needs to stop. No one has been listening to the NCMs or taking them seriously and there have been very few advocating for all of these people. It's well past time their voices are heard."
MJ Batek, Ocdt (Ret)
MJ Batek was training to be one of the first female Artillery Officers in Canada and was injured during a training exercise in the 1990s. Her physical injury was career ending however, it was the sexual assaults and harassment she experienced during her military service combined with military domestic violence that have brought about her complex PTSD. She also served in the Communications Reserve as a Private where she also experienced MST at the hands of an Instructor. These assaults led to her decision to leave the Canadian Armed Forces after having successfully graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.
MJ was honoured to be selected for Team Canada for the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia and competed alongside other MST Survivors and injured CAF Veterans and Active Serving Members.
“It is difficult for people to understand PTSD from “friendly fire.” The first question I always get asked is if I served overseas. The concept that your injuries were inflicted by your team mates, leadership or military spouse is difficult to comprehend or talk about.” According to Vets Canada, MST and domestic violence are the top issues facing female veterans in Canada.
MJ hopes to help bring about MST awareness and also help support those escaping violence in her own community. She also advocates for civilian survivors of MST as this has touched various members of her own family. Her skill set is Graphic Design, Web and Marketing.