Why are sexual assault victims reluctant to report?
Re: “RCMP close file on sexual assault allegations at Cowichan Hospital”
Warmland Women’s Support Services Society raises our hands to the dedicated members of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP for their extensive and thorough investigation into the allegations of sexual assaults on the grounds of the Cowichan District Hospital. Evidence is not always easy to uncover or collect. Evidence includes statements given to police by victims of crime. Statements are often the primary source of evidence. But what if a victim is reluctant to provide police with a statement? Does the absence of a statement mean the evidence doesn’t exist? Does a lack of evidence mean the crime didn’t occur? Or does it simply mean evidence is unavailable to support an investigation?
Why would victims of sexualized violence be reluctant to provide a statement to police? Fear of the offender, fear of being shamed, blamed or discounted, workplace ramifications, sexual assault myths, pervasive rape culture that sexually objectifies women, pits women against women, views rape as inevitable, defines men as aggressive and sexually dominant, identifies men who don’t “hit it and quit it” as weak… and worse.
Our entire narrative focuses on the survivors, who are predominantly women, with questions about what she was wearing, what was she thinking, why she was at that party, ad nauseam. Rape is very dangerous so survivors resist in ways that are invisible to the offender hoping the violence will not escalate further. These hidden acts of resistance make it easy for society to form negative opinions about the survivor. Sexual assault is a violent physical assault that is sexualized. It is dehumanizing and traumatic. It is never the victim’s fault. Every time a survivor discloses the details of sexualized violence they endure flashbacks, intolerable fear, and fracturing emotional and psychological pain.
Be more than a bystander to rape culture. Challenge victim blaming when you hear it. Challenge toxic masculinity’s harmful impact on men, women and particularly young men and boys. Advocate for survivors. Ask questions on their behalf. Search out trauma-informed resources and victim services so survivors have an idea of where their healing journey can begin and what their rights are as a victim of crime. It is absurd that in a country as rich in human rights as Canada, survivors of sexual assault face consequences when reporting.
There is no time limit on when a survivor of sexual assault can report to police. When new evidence comes forward police can re-open an investigation. Other resources survivors can report to include WorkSafeBC and/or unions if the assault occurred at the workplace, doctors, counsellors, faith-based advisors, and anonymous third party reporting processes through community-based victim services. The Crime Victim Assistance Program is another anonymous and safe resource providing victims of crime with various benefits such as the cost of counselling or protective measures. VictimLinkBC 1-800-563-0808, Cowichan Women Against Violence 250-748-7000 and Warmland Women’s Support Services 250-710-8177 can respond to anonymous inquiries.
If you know anyone who has information about a sexual assault you can make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522. Do your part. Help keep our community safe for everyone. Sexual violence is a societal issue and it is not the survivor’s sole responsibility to stand up to that. Together against violence. Together we are stronger.
Kendra Thomas, program coordinator
Warmland Women’s Support Services Society