Dramatic rise in Kingston’s reported sexual assault numbers may be linked to #MeToo movement

Statistics Canada numbers show sexual assault reports up more than 50 per cent in Kingston
Officials in Kingston say the increase in numbers could be due to the #MeToo movement and changes police have made, to help accommodate victims of sexual assault.

New data from Statistics Canada shows Kingston saw a huge spike in violent crime last year, and much of that increase came from a jump in reported sexual assaults in the city.

According to StatCan numbers, violent crime jumped more than 50 per cent from 2016, and reported sexual assaults raised by more than 55 per cent.

WATCH: Kingston police host Sexual Assault training course for officers dealing with victims

Kingston police host Sexual Assault training course for officers dealing with victims
Kingston police host Sexual Assault training course for officers dealing with victims

Some officials in Kingston are crediting the #MeToo movement and the way police handle sexual assault allegations have contributed to the increase seen in the statistics.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2017, there were 140 cases of reported sexual assault in Kingston, compared to 90 in the previous year and 83 reported in 2015.

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Brea Hutchinson with the Sexual Assault Centre in Kingston says the numbers show what they are seeing on the ground floor.

“It’s actually not terribly surprising. For the past year we’ve also seen this reflected really well in our service user requests.”

She says their service use has also jumped 50 per cent.

READ MORE: Former student at Royal Military College charged with sexual assault

Deputy chief Antje McNeely says that it’s important not to jump to conclusions and rule Kingston out as a particularly violent city.

“What’s driving it may very well be that there’s much more discourse in the public with the #MeToo movement.”

She also added that the numbers speak to the changes Kingston police have made to help accommodate victims of sexual assault.

“There’s also been a lot of training that’s been done over the last little bit as well, working with our community partners,” said McNeely. “Training in terms of trauma informed interviewing, and ensuring we’re very victim-centred.”

Hutchinson agreed with McNeely’s, saying that the discourse around the #MeToo movement may be making potential victims feel more comfortable reporting to police.

“It’s made it easier for survivors to come forward to report, because they know that they’re not going to be discounted at the door of not being true.”

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Hutchinson adds they have had a working relationship with police to help look into previous unfounded cases.

READ MORE: Nearly 90 reported Calgary sexual assaults being re-examined as part of review of unfounded cases

After an explosive article published by The Globe and Mail in 2017 that showed police were classifying about 20 per cent of all sexual assault cases as “unfounded,” McNeely said that there was a review amongst police agencies on how officers were classifying their calls.

Kingston police also instituted an external oversight committee to look over any sexual assault cases that are deemed unfounded.

With files from Alexandra Mazur