On March 8, 2016, Sunny Marriner, Ottawa’s tireless advocate for women who have experienced sexual violence, was awarded a Femmy Award. These awards recognize outstanding feminist achievement in the National Capital Region. Sunny has most recently been in the news (and on CBC) for her longstanding struggle to get the Ottawa Police Service to adopt the “Philadelphia Model” to improve police handling of sexual assault cases. We celebrate her with this description of her outstanding contributions taken from her nomination letter, written by Liz Sheehy:
For 18 years Sunny has advocated for women who have experienced sexual violence in Ottawa. For the bulk of those years she worked at the Sexual Assault Support Centre, focusing on marginalized young women. More recently she has moved to the position of Executive Director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. Her new position reflects her extensive experience as a sexual assault counsellor; her knowledge, educational and research achievements; her community leadership; and her support for women who have been raped, advocating for them in various contexts—in education, housing, social welfare, criminal proceedings, and criminal injuries compensation, policing and law reform.
Sunny has worked tirelessly on individual women’s files, for example preparing briefs for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in support of women’s compensation claims. Most recently she worked around the clock to prepare a 50-page summary documenting the woman’s suffering and multiple failed system responses. Sunny’s tenacity and her commitment to achieving a measure of “justice” means that some of her files have been active for the full 18 years of her Ottawa work life. Sunny has steadfastly attended criminal court with raped women, even though sadly, over 18 years, she has never ONCE seen a conviction ensue.
Sunny has contributed to women’s equality demands in the context of sexual assault over many activities. She is a public educator who has addressed UOttawa law students and organized and participated in countless events aimed at informing Ottawans of the legal and systemic challenges raped women face (ie she participated in Octopus Books’ “Workshop on Consent”). She attended graduate school at Carleton in order to study how “expertise” is constructed in sexual assault trials and to position herself as a potential expert witness. Her conference presentation and book chapter in Elizabeth Sheehy’s book (Sexual Assault in Canada, 2012) demonstrate her extraordinary talents as a researcher and writer, as well as her contributions as an activist and scholar to academic understandings of the impact of the rape trial on women.
Sunny is also a committed law reformer: most recently she has engaged in an 18-month battle with Ottawa Police to adopt the “Philadelphia model” so that police coding of sexual assaults is reviewed and revised by feminist activists who are sexual assault experts. Finally Sunny has also vigorously defended women’s equality rights by her regular online, TV, print and radio media interventions. Sunny is a rock star and a force of nature.