As the #MeToo movement continues to gain traction across Canada, supporters have continuously called for not only an end to sexual assault victim stigmatization, but also for an improvement in the way that sexual assault incident reports are handled by authorities. In Canada, sexual assault allegations are investigated by local police departments or the RCMP. RCMP statistics indicate an estimated 635,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in Canada during 2014.
Tip of The Iceberg
Unfortunately, as someone who has been representing survivors of sexual abuse for more than 25 years, I can state without a shadow of a doubt that these reports are just the tip of the iceberg.
I expect most Canadians would be shocked to learn that nearly 90 percent of all sexual assault incidents go unreported. A variety of factors contribute to this:
First, victims may feel intimidated by longstanding social and cultural attitudes exhibited towards sexual assault victims, and feel that it is safer or “easier” to say nothing about their experience.
Second, a lack of investigative accountability, victim support and sexual assault education allows many assaulters to “slip through the cracks” unintentionally meaning that even if a report is made, it does not guarantee that an arrest will result. Cases in which an assaulter is determined to have “not violated the law,” or that a crime was “falsely reported” are classified as unfounded.