Number of reported sexual assaults spike in Canada, but stay flat in Manitoba

The number of reported sexual assaults has spiked across Canada. Getty Images

Statistics Canada’s new crime numbers show that reported sexual assaults have spiked across the country, but the numbers are flat for Manitoba.

In Winnipeg the number of reports dropped one per cent year-over-year from 2016 to 2017.

“Winnipeg always reported very accurately. It was many of the other cities that had to adjust and review their reporting practices,” said Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth Monday.

“Our reports and our unfounded reports stayed pretty consistent, even after it was flagged by CCJS [The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics],” Smyth explained.
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“I wasn’t concerned about our practices locally, but you’ll see sexual assaults did spike nationally as other cities adjusted their reporting practices.”

According to new data from Statistics Canada, there were 24,672 police-reported sexual assaults in 2017, an increase of 13 per cent from the previous year.

As well, the rate of unfounded sexual assaults (i.e. it was determined no crime was committed) dropped five per cent.

Statistics Canada pointed to a bigger spike in reports right around the time the #MeToo movement took off online. Credit was also given to police agencies nationwide for taking sexual assaults more seriously.

The rise in reported assaults does not mean there are more assaults happening, said Nicole Chammartin, executive director of Klinic Commnity Health said.

Experts estimate as few as five per cent of sexual assault cases are actually brought to police, and there are a variety of reasons why that number is so low.

“If people have seen other people go through the system, they might be dissuaded by the experiences they see in media,” she said.

“There’s lots of stigma around sexual assault. People don’t want a public trial, they don’t want a public court case … It’s really important we don’t shame people for choosing not to report.”

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Chammartin is encouraged by the trend of increased police reporting, but is more concerned with how the justice system treats sexual assault cases.

“We talk about creating a more trauma-informed system, so how do we support survivors and people who are accusing others of sexual assault? Are there better ways to support?” she said.

“I think that we need an entirely different legal system for these kinds of cases. We need to change how we do it, we need to change how they’re tried.”

WATCH: Klinic sexual assault councillor Jerra Fraser says when it comes to consent, all parties need to have equal power

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg sexual assault councillor says there is a lot of privilege that comes with power'
Winnipeg sexual assault councillor says there is a lot of privilege that comes with power

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