Sex assault survivor says recommended VPD policy changes ‘not enough’

File - Vancouver woman says recommended changes to sexual assault cases doesn't go far enough. File

A Vancouver woman who survived a sexual assault says new changes recommended to the way police handle sensitive cases don’t go far enough.

Catherine Francioli, one of the initiators of the 2.9 campaign, was responding to recommendations made by the Vancouver Police Board (VPB) on Thursday.

“I feel like they skirted most of the major issues,” Francioli said. “[They] concentrated on the minutiae of the case, but not really the bigger ones that are going to solve the problems for anyone that suffers sexual assault.”

On June 2016, Francioli was on her way home when she was thrown to the ground while a man attempted to sexually assault her. She fought back and called the Vancouver police when the man fled.

READ MORE: Low sexual assault convictions in Vancouver focus of new campaign

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In a previous interview with Global News, Francioli said she “received support from the VPD” for the first few weeks, but said she “began to hear silence” the next few months that followed. Eventually she was told her case was closed.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board was reviewing a complaint about how her case was handled.

The VPD apologized during the meeting, Drazen Manojlovic, director of the Planning, Research & Audit Section, said the “lack of communication” was “atypical.”

“I found it to be just incredibly frustrating,” Francioli said. “They kept referring to my case as if it was an anomaly, as if this is a unique circumstance.”

According to a Freedom of Information request by Global News in 2016, data showed that out of the 5,200 reported sexual assaults in Vancouver in a 10-year span, less than three per cent ended in conviction.

READ MORE: Less than 3% of sexual assault reports in Vancouver end with convictions

“I started the project because I wanted other women to share their stories as well, and I’ve heard a lot,” she said.

The VPB recommended the following be improved based on her case:

  • More timely communication with victims
  • Ensure the file is appropriately processed when someone in training is handling the case or returning to their other duties
  • Notify the parties involved when the first pieces of evidence is presented early in the investigation
  • Create a dialogue with the individuals involved in the case and the Vancouver police

Francioli said there were two recommendations she wanted to see included that were not adopted by the review. She said police need to review the empathy and sensitivity training given to police officers during cases, and review the lack of priority and budget given to the VPD sex crimes unit.

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Even though her recommendations weren’t adopted during the meeting, she’s grateful someone called attention to them.

“I’m glad somebody brought that up [empathy and sensitivity],” Francioli said. “And it was one of the female board members that actually said [to the police officers], ‘what are you going to do about this empathy and sensitivity training.'”

LISTEN: New campaign aims to bring attention to low sexual assault conviction rate in the Vancouver Police Department

  • With files from Jill Slattery

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