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Province working on new system to report sex assaults, status of women minister says

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Minister responsible for the status of women Rochelle Squires answers questions from the media just outside the Crystal Ballroom at the Hotel Fort Garry prior to launch of the Status of Women in Manitoba report luncheon on International Women's Day Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Minister responsible for the status of women Rochelle Squires answers questions from the media just outside the Crystal Ballroom at the Hotel Fort Garry prior to launch of the Status of Women in Manitoba report luncheon on International Women's Day Thursday.

On International Women's Day, Manitoba's minister responsible for the Status of Women revealed the provincial government is hoping to create a third-party reporting system for sexual assault survivors.

Before attending a luncheon at the Fort Garry Hotel, Rochelle Squires mentioned a new initiative that would allow survivors who don't want to or aren't comfortable going to police to still have data about their incidents of sexual assault collected anonymously.

Squires talked about a third-party reporting system while answering questions about the first Status of Women in Manitoba report, which was also unveiled Thursday.

She is working with counterparts across the country, including police services, to get a new reporting system off the ground. There is no financial framework or definite timeline for the project yet.

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On International Women's Day, Manitoba's minister responsible for the Status of Women revealed the provincial government is hoping to create a third-party reporting system for sexual assault survivors.

Before attending a luncheon at the Fort Garry Hotel, Rochelle Squires mentioned a new initiative that would allow survivors who don't want to or aren't comfortable going to police to still have data about their incidents of sexual assault collected anonymously.

Squires talked about a third-party reporting system while answering questions about the first Status of Women in Manitoba report, which was also unveiled Thursday.

She is working with counterparts across the country, including police services, to get a new reporting system off the ground. There is no financial framework or definite timeline for the project yet.

"(With third-party reporting) if a woman has a very negative experience, a sexual assault or a rape, and are not comfortable going to the police right away, (they) can reach out to an organization or an entity that might be a little bit more of a friendly environment for her to go forward, tell her story, have the data collected and not necessarily right away share (their story) with the police or maybe not ever share with the police, specific to her situation," Squires explained.

"But the police would then get that data and be able to put it in a system and then they could see trends — if there are trends — with perpetrators. They might be able to make some arrests based on anonymous data. Or that data is there and preserved for a situation where a survivor might feel comfortable six months after an experience (or) a year after an experience, and come forward and make that police report."

While compiling the Status of Women report, it became clear there was a lack of gender-segregated data to draw from, which extended to sexual assault reporting. The data gap is a problem plaguing the entire world, not just Manitoba, said Jeannette Montufar, chair of the Manitoba Women's Advisory Council.

Being aware of this issue now and taking action could help bolster the success of future reports, Montufar told reporters.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Jeannette Montufar, chairperson, Manitoba Women's Advisory Council, just prior to the launch of the Status of Women in Manitoba luncheon at the Hotel For Garry on International Women's Day Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jeannette Montufar, chairperson, Manitoba Women's Advisory Council, just prior to the launch of the Status of Women in Manitoba luncheon at the Hotel For Garry on International Women's Day Thursday.

"As we move forward now, there are great opportunities to establish collaboration with, maybe universities, colleges, even with the bureau of statistics in the province, to collect more of this information that we can make into something that’s going to allow us to make decisions," she said.

Though sexual assault is chronically under-reported, Manitoba still has the highest rate of police-reported sexual assault among the Canadian provinces, as per the new Status of Women report. There were 109 incidents per 100,000 people — almost twice the national rate — in 2016. That year, 1,431 incidents were reported in total.

"What's most unsettling is that we know roughly only about five per cent of survivors actually go to police to report," Squires said. "A lot of survivors have a different journey towards healing and recovery from sexual assault (or a) traumatic experience. And some of that does not include going to police right away."

Nicole Chammartin, executive director of Klinic Community Health, is one of many advocates who have long been pushing for anonymous third-party reporting systems in the sexual assault sphere. Such a system previously existed between Klinic and Winnipeg police, but was dissolved a few years ago, she said.

"I think that there’s a real need to really better understand the sexual assault and sexual violence landscape in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, in Canada. I think we lack a lot of information because we know it’s so under-recorded," she told the Free Press.

Chammartin emphasized that sexual assault survivors avoid going to police for various reasons, which may include feeling their own personal safety could be jeopardized. Klinic would be ready and willing to help navigate survivors' reports and pass them on to police, she said.

"I think for people who are (anonymously) reporting that can be empowering in terms of knowing that you’re a part of understanding the scope of the problem," she said. 

"At Klinic, that’s something we really focus on — ensuring when people call that they feel heard, that they feel believed, that they feel supported. Those are key things. And so this is just another way to be able to do that, and to be do it safely." 

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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History

Updated on Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 5:31 PM CST: Final updated, adds photos

5:38 PM: Fixes formatting

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