The Alberta RCMP continues to recognize the importance of understanding the impact of sexually violent crimes in our communities during Sexual Violence Awareness month.
May is Sexual Violence Awareness month in Alberta. The designation for Sexual Violence Awareness month began in 2018 when the Government of Alberta launched a commitment to working towards ending sexual violence. Between 2016 and 2021, there had been a steady increase in reports of sexual assault.
More than any other crime, victims of sexual violence often feel shame, self-blame and humiliation as a result of their victimization. These complex emotions, combined with societal attitudes, myths and stereotypes around sexual violence make it more difficult for victims to disclose the crime to others.
"The majority of victims of sexual assault postpone reporting the incident to police or anyone else," says Sgt. Deanna Fontaine, the Sexual Assault Review Coordinator for Alberta RCMP. "The reasons are distinct for each individual and may include the victim's feelings of shame, embarrassment, shock, denial, self-blame, uncertainty, a lack of confidence in the justice process and fear of not being believed."
The Alberta RCMP would like to provide victims with information on programs that are available to report an incident in the future, if and when they feel ready.
Supportive Reporting Programs (SRP) is a partnership between RCMP Detachments and their local community Sexual Assault Support Centers.
Supportive Reporting Programs provide victims an opportunity to file a police report relating to sexual violence through a third-party individual who is a designated advocate whom liaises between the police and the victim. The advocate will contact the police to arrange a time and place for the victim to meet with a specially-trained, trauma informed police investigator.
The police investigator will meet with the victim at the support centre (or other agreed upon location) and explain reporting options, roles and responsibilities of those involved in the criminal justice process and offer any other information that may help the victim make an informed choice about whether or not they wish to report or how far they wish to participate in the criminal justice system. Regardless if a victim participates fully in the criminal justice process, they will still receive supports to help them through their reporting steps.
The Alberta RCMP has two operating Supportive Reporting Centers; Saffron Centre in Strathcona County and the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre in Red Deer.
Victims of sexual violence also have access to Third Option Evidence Collection. This is also known as or referred to as Third Option (Kits). Third Option Evidence Collection is a collaborative program between police, health, community-based sexual assault services, and crown that provides victims of sexual violence the opportunity to complete a forensic medical exam (which can include a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit) and have the evidence stored confidentially until the survivor is ready to decide if they wish to report the incident to the police or not. Providing the victim with time to decide if filing a police report is the right option for them is a victim-centred approach that allows for the victim to access other supports they may need while ensuring that potential crucial evidence is obtained and secured—which may assist in securing a conviction in court.
The Alberta RCMP participates in a Third Option Evidence Collection program in a number of regions throughout the province that permits the RCMP to hold the collected evidence confidentially for a period of 12 months to allow the victim sufficient time to make an informed decision on how they wish to proceed, if at all. For full confidentiality, no identifying information about the survivor is provided to the RCMP unless a victim decides to proceed with an investigation.
"The Alberta RCMP appreciates the partnership with community based sexual assault services and the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) who work to ensure that survivors of sexual violence can access the services and support they need to heal and recover," says Sgt. Deanna Fontaine.
If you are a survivor of, or witness to, sexual violence or any criminal activity, please report it to local police or contact your nearest sexual assault or community-based Victim Services agency for appropriate support and reporting options. Victims can access online support at the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services at: Get Support | Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (aasas.ca).
The Alberta RCMP has detailed information for the general public and a centralized location for information and resources available for sexual violence survivors at: https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ab/community-communaute/sa-as/index-eng.htm. Further information about Alberta RCMP programs available to victims/survivors can be found here: https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ab/community-communaute/sa-as/programs-programmes-eng.htm.