Manitoba is officially the third province to institute third-party sexual assault reporting.
A new protocol was announced by Winnipeg police and community health officials Monday.
Following British Columbia and the Yukon, the program allows survivors to share their stories anonymously with community agencies.
This gives survivors, who are mostly women, a way to talk about what happened without reporting it to police.
“As law enforcement, we must be aware that walking into a police station, or making a call after such a traumatic experience, can be intimidating and even overwhelming for a survivor,” said Scott Kolody, Commanding Officer of RCMP ‘D’ Division. “We have to work together with our partner agencies to ensure that anyone who has been traumatized has options when it comes to reporting sexual assaults.”
The three agencies partnering with Winnipeg Police and the RCMP are Klinic Community Health Centre, Sage House (Mount Carmel Clinic), and Heart Medicine Lounge (Ka Ni Kanichihk).
“This provides survivors with choices following an event that has taken choices away,” Nicole Chammartin, Klinic Executive Director, explained.
“For some folks, making a formal report is not an option. It’s not something they feel safe doing. For some people, making no report doesn’t feel good. This is really a way to empower women to feel there is a choice they can make that allows their voice to be heard.”
Status of Women Minister Rochelle Squires has advocated for third-party reporting, and recently shared her own story of being sexually assaulted as a teenager.
“We’re dealing with women who have had choices taken away from them, and third-party reporting is putting choice back in their hands,” Squires said. “They get to control the narrative, what happens next. It is an incredibly daunting procedure to go through, and we know, historically, that women have faced incredible barriers when they have shared their story.”
The agencies will pass along what information they collect to police without identifying the victim. Police will use this data to help paint a clearer picture of what is actually happening in the community, since close to 95 per cent of sexual assaults go unreported.
The data can also be used to track any trends that develop and may help identify offenders.