Sexual assault survivors can now report anonymously through Manitoba community agencies

Sexual assault survivors can now report anonymously through Manitoba community agencies

Sexual assault survivors now have another option for reporting what happened to them.

Manitoba sexual assault survivors can now anonymously report the abuse to any one of three different community agencies. That information will be entered into a national database that tracks violent offenders, even though it will not be treated the same as a formal complaint to police. 

That will give those who have suffered the trauma and fear of a sexual assault a reporting option that doesn’t involve the police or court system, and will also possibly help police identify “offenders or trends” that may have been missed, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said. 

“We’re not entering a formal investigation through a third party,” said Smyth, meaning those who report to the community partners are not officially reporting a crime.

It is hoped that once survivors tell their story to one of the community partners, they will be more confident to tell police. From there, police would then be able to do a formal investigation, Smyth said.

However, if survivors aren’t comfortable speaking with police, that doesn’t mean officers won’t investigate a third-party report, he said.

“Of course we have the ability to see if other assaults have taken place that are similar,” said Smyth. “So it doesn’t necessarily mean a criminal investigation, but I think it’s a good way for us to get a sense of how much is happening in the community.”

Those who are taking reports will fill out a form to be entered into the database by police, said Smyth. Those who cannot visit one of the agencies can instead call and speak to someone.

Bit overdue

Klinic Community Health Centre, Sage House at Mount Carmel Clinic and Heart Medicine Lodge at Ka Ni Kanichihk are all taking part in the program facilitated by the province of Manitoba.

“It’s a little bit overdue but it’s very timely,” said Leslie Spillet of Ka Ni Kanichihk, adding Indigenous women in Winnipeg face the highest rate of sexual violence in the city. 

Relationships are the key to getting people to tell their stories, she said, and third-party reporting helps form those relationships.

Leslie Spillet of Ka Ni Kanichihk speaks at the press conference Monday. (CBC)

Manitoba is the third jurisdiction in Canada to make third-party reporting a tool for police, said Rochelle Squires, the provincial minister responsible for the status of women. 

“We know that in British Columbia, for example, advocates had said in the aftermath of some very high-profile serial rape cases that had there been third-party reporting available, there would have been perhaps identification of a trend, and perhaps an arrest made earlier,” said Squires.

She said third party reporting is firstly an important tool for survivors and secondly a tool for law enforcement.

Third party reporting is for adults only, as there is a duty to report to police about underage victims, Squires said.

Published at Mon, 16 Apr 2018 14:26:44 -0400