Options exist for sexual assault reporting, women’s advocate says

The Yukon experiences four times the national average of sexual and domestic violence, yet many women may not understand how to properly report an incident or what happens when an incident is reported.

Special to the News

The Yukon experiences four times the national average of sexual and domestic violence, yet many women may not understand how to properly report an incident or what happens when an incident is reported.

Collyn Lovelace, executive assistant at the Yukon Women’s Transition Home, said less than 10 per cent of victims in the Yukon choose to report an assault.

The process of reporting can be a complicated one, said Diane Petrin, a women’s associate with the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre in Whitehorse.

“The mechanisms, when set in motion with the RCMP, are almost unstoppable,” Petrin said. “Some women feel like they aren’t in control of their own choices anymore once it starts.”

When police are called, a file is automatically opened and an investigation into the incident takes place. Officers will then interview the victim and take down a testimony of events. The accused is then charged and may be arrested and held for up to 24 hours.

A no-contact order is often put in place at this time, forbidding the accused and the victim from seeing or speaking to each other. As the investigation proceeds, statements from possible witnesses and the accused are taken. If there is sufficient evidence to proceed the case goes to trial. It can sometimes take years to reach a verdict.

Once this process begins, the investigation cannot be stopped and the file remains open until the charges are either dropped or proceed to a court setting. This is true even if the woman later decides she does not want to carry the complaint forward.

This system is in place because sometimes women can be intimidated into dropping charges even when they don’t want to, Petrin said, but this policy can be a double-edged sword.

“Women can be intimidated and threatened (by the accused) financially or physically into dropping charges,” she said.

“Abusers will use whatever they can including threatening children, pets, slashing a woman’s tires…. In a way, the process is good, because it can’t be turned off, but then women get threatened even though nothing in their power can be done to stop the proceedings … and police do not always take breaches (of a peace bond) seriously.”

When a woman reports an incident, the RCMP will often send a pair of officers to her home to record a statement. This can be very difficult, Petrin said, and women sometimes feel their concerns are being dismissed due to the “black and white, business-like style,” the RCMP often take in these interactions.

“I don’t know if police fully understand the dynamic of this kind of violence,” she said.

Petrin added the situation can be doubly complicated when there are children in the home, as family and children’s services are automatically involved once a police report is made in such a case. There can also be mental health and social repercussions to reporting, which cause some women to hesitate, she said.

If a woman chooses not to report, she still has options available to her, Petrin says. Women’s advocates at the Victoria Faulkner Centre can help by going to the hospital with a woman and helping her find other sources of care.

“Some women choose to seek counselling on their own, work things out on their own,” she said. “And some people report and regret reporting, because then everyone knows everything and they have to tell their story over and over again, which can be very traumatic.”

Women can also use the third party reporting system available through Kaushee’s Place, says Lovelace. This system, adopted from a similar one used in Ontario and British Columbia, allows women to anonymously report an attack. They report the incident to a women’s advocate at the centre, either in person or over the phone and the file is sent to the police without triggering an investigation or charges. This allows police to see patterns in sexual assault cases, such as repeat offenders. The file is not made available for investigation unless the victim gives her consent.

Whitehorse General Hospital and the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre also offer a frozen rape kit service. A victim can have evidence taken in the case of a sexual assault using a rape kit, and then have that evidence frozen for up to a year until she decides what to do with it, Lovelace said.

“The choice to report or not is a very personal one,” Petrin said. “But we want people to know that whatever you choose, if you come to the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, we believe you. The best care a woman can receive is to be believed, and not have her stories minimalized.”

Contact the Yukon News at editor@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read