Vol. 80, No. 4News notes

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New option for sex-assault victims in Manitoba

Megan Mann, a sexual assault crisis counsellor with Klinic Community Health in Winnipeg, Man., listens to a victim of sexual assault. Credit: Jerra Fraser, Klinic Community Health


In Manitoba, victims of sexual assault now have the option to report the incident to police anonymously through one of three participating community health agencies.

In April, the province became the third region in Canada to offer the service — referred to as third-party reporting — which will benefit both victims and police. The option already exists in B.C. and Yukon.

"I think this is a step forward for people to feel empowered," says Supt. Jeanette Theisen, who is in charge of Winnipeg RCMP's major crimes division. "I've always said that sex assault is one of the worst, most serious offences police deal with because the person that's been sexually assaulted lives it over and over every day."

The new policy is a way to recognize the trauma that victims experience and allows them to report in a way that makes them feel safe, gives them a voice, and helps them move forward in their journey, says Theisen.

Manitoba RCMP is collaborating with Klinic Community Health to improve access for victims in remote areas. The health centre offers a 24/7 sex-assault reporting line that will benefit rural victims who can't attend in person to complete a third-party report with one of their counsellors trained in sexual assault trauma, says Theisen.

Victims receive a case number and the report is sent to police, leaving out their personal information. Officers use it to gather evidence for other cases — trends, similarities and for possible linkages to other incidents. Or, if they have enough evidence, they contact Klinic to encourage the victim to work with them.

But for victims, who statistically report only one in 20 incidents, the purpose of completing a report through a third party is all about choices, says Megan Mann, a sexual-assault crisis counsellor who has worked at Klinic for eight years.

"Sometimes people want to do something, but aren't necessarily interested in an investigation," says Mann. "So this gives them another option to say 'OK, I've done something. I've given the police this information. Something may or may not come of that, but at least I've done something."

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