Historic sexual assault now included in Edmonton police online crime reporting

Click to play video 'EPS launch online reporting tool for sexual assaults' EPS launch online reporting tool for sexual assaults
WATCH: Edmonton police have added an online crime reporting option for victims of historic sexual assault. As Sarah Ryan explains, advocates and officers hope it will encourage more people to come forward – Feb 5, 2020

The Edmonton Police Service is expanding its online crime reporting tool to include historic sexual assault.

That means victims can now file a report through a secure online form for assaults that have occurred more than seven days earlier.

“Every year a large number of sexual assaults go unreported,” EPS Staff Sgt. Terrie Affolder said.

“If we can make it easier for just a few of those victims to share with us, we’ll consider this a success.

“Walking into a police station can be difficult, so giving victims the ability to choose when and how they report makes us hopeful we’ll hear from them.”

READ MORE: Alberta-wide text and chat line launches amid increased demand for sexual assault services

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Once an online report is submitted, the person who filed it will be given a temporary police report number. Once it’s reviewed, a permanent police report number will be provided, replacing the temporary one.

All cases filed using the online reporting system will be reviewed within seven business days. If police start an investigation, the person who filed the report will be contacted within 10 business days.

The secure, web-based tool lets individuals choose whether they submit their report for investigation or information. Only when they submit the report for investigation will they be contacted by an officer for follow-up, EPS explained.

The EPS said the non-emergency line remains the main way people report historic sexual assault, but hopes adding the web option will make reporting more accessible for some victims.

“When a person experiences sexual assault, their power is taken from them,” said Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. “One of the most important things we can do to help survivors reclaim that power is give them options about what happens next.

“We’re optimistic that this new online reporting option will increase the likelihood that a person will feel comfortable enough to come forward.”

READ MORE: Overcoming abuse: How to support and respect survivors of family violence

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Sexual assault is defined as any sexual contact where consent is not given, consent is revoked, or the individual is unable to consent because they’re incapacitated. The Supreme Court of Canada held that the act of sexual assault does not depend solely on contact with any specific part of the human anatomy but rather the act of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim.

There is no statute of limitations on sexual assault so incidents can be reported at any time.

In 2019, there were 1,057 cases of sexual assault reported in Edmonton. So far in 2020, there have been 78 cases reported. Ten cases have been reported through EPS’ online system, which soft-launched in November 2019.

Statistics Canada estimates that only one in 20 cases of sexual assault is reported to police.

READ MORE: ‘I believe you’ campaign means more Albertans know how to respond to sexual assault

If you are in an emergency situation, call 911. If it is not an emergency situation, you may:

  • Report it at the nearest Edmonton police station
  • Call the EPS non-emergency complaint line at (780) 423-4567
  • If you are 16 or older, you can go to the hospital and ask to see a Sexual Assault Response Team nurse (for a recent sexual assault)
  • If you are under 16, you can go to the Stollery Children’s Hospital and tell staff you have been sexually assaulted
Click to play video 'Alberta-wide text/chat line now available for sexual assault victims' Alberta-wide text/chat line now available for sexual assault victims
Alberta-wide text/chat line now available for sexual assault victims – May 6, 2019

You can report a sexual assault online when:

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  • It is not an emergency and you are not in danger
  • The assault did not occur within the last seven days
  • You are reporting on behalf of yourself and you are 16 or older
  • There is no evidence that could be lost if it’s not collected immediately (clothing with possible DNA evidence, social media messages or surveillance video, for example)
  • You have a secure email account that is not shared (so you will not be in danger if you receive an email from police)

READ MORE: 1.8 million Albertans have experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime: report

EPS’ online crime reporting program began in 2013 and saw 2,608 reports filed online that year. Crimes that can be reported online include break and enter, mischief to property or vehicle (including graffiti), lost property, theft from vehicle, general theft, sexual assault (historical) and retail theft (for retailers).

In 2019, a total of 20,079 reports were filed online.

The addition of the historic sexual assault reporting option will be monitored over the next several months to measure its performance.

Similar web-based systems for reporting sexual assault have been developed by Windsor and Hamilton police services.

Click to play video 'Sexual assaults up in Edmonton' Sexual assaults up in Edmonton
Sexual assaults up in Edmonton – Jul 31, 2017

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence, there are additional supports available. 

The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton can be reached 24 hours a day at 1-780-423-4121.

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Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse can be reached toll free at 1-877-237-5888.

The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services can be reached at 1-403-237-6905.