The rate of sexual assaults reported to police decreased in the Yukon following the #MeToo movement, according to data released by Statistics Canada. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Sexual assault reports to Yukon RCMP decreased post-#MeToo, StatsCan says

However, report co-author cautions the Yukon’s small population can make it hard to draw conclusions

While the rate of sexual assaults reported to police in Canada increased by nearly a quarter after the beginning of the #MeToo movement, the Yukon saw reports decrease by about a fifth, according to a new Statistics Canada report.

However, one of the report’s authors cautioned, the territory’s small population can make the numbers look more dramatic than they really are.

Titled Police-reported sexual assaults in Canada before and after #MeToo, 2016 and 2017, the Statistics Canada report, released Nov. 8, compared the rate of sexual assaults reported to police in the 21 months prior to the online #MeToo movement, which encouraged victims of sexual assault to speak up about their experiences, and in the three months afterwards.

The report found that nationally, in the post-#MeToo period, the rate of reports to police increased by 24 per cent.

However, in the Yukon, the rate actually dropped by 18 per cent, with the rate going from 50.6 reports per 100,000 in the pre-#MeToo period to 41.7 in the post-#MeToo period.

In total, there were 135 reported sexual assaults in the pre-#MeToo period, and 16 afterwards.

The Northwest Territories also saw a 10 per cent decrease, while Nunavut and all the provinces saw increases ranging from Saskatchewan’s one per cent to Quebec’s 61 per cent.

In a phone interview Nov. 15, report co-author Adam Cotter said that while the data was valid, when raw numbers in smaller jurisdictions are standardized to represent a “per 100,000” rate, “it can be somewhat difficult to try and draw strong conclusions, necessarily, about things that are shifting.”

“Just to kind of step back and contextualize the numbers, one of the things that we pointed out in relation to the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut … is when we’re breaking the data down into the monthly slices we’re looking at, in some cases we’re left with some pretty small numbers that we’re using to show these changes between the pre- and the post-#MeToo period,” he said.

For example, Cotter noted, in the three-month period pre-#MeToo in the Yukon, there were 19 reported sexual assaults, while in the three-month period afterwards, there were 16.

“It’s only a change of three victims,” Cotter said.

“It’s important to look not only at the rate but the absolute numbers we’re talking about.”

With that in mind, the report and Cotter both noted that there could be several reasons why reports of sexual assault decreased or increased in the wake of #MeToo going viral. Those could include limited internet access in smaller and rural communities, the relationship between communities and police, and how proactive police have been in making reporting accessible and as comfortable as possible for victims.

“It really was a different story across the country,” Cotter said, noting that urban centres like Windsor, Ont., and Barrie, Ont., also saw decreases in rate.

In an email Nov. 15, Yukon RCMP spokesperson Coralee Reid wrote that the division doesn’t know exactly why fewer people reported sexual assaults to police in the Yukon post-#MeToo.

“Here in the Yukon, we’re encouraged that nationally, police are seeing more survivors come forward to report sexual assaults. But we don’t have a definitive answer as to why the numbers dropped following the #metoo movement, nor will we make any assumptions on this,” Reid wrote.

“We have to remember that not everybody wants to come forward to the police, and that’s okay. There are many reasons why someone would choose not to report, and those reasons will sometimes be very personal and specific to each victim.

“If someone has shown courage, resiliency and strength by coming forward (or perhaps is contemplating doing so), the Yukon RCMP wants them to know that we do take all sexual assault complaints seriously, and we will investigate them.”

In another email, Reid said that Yukon RCMP “always (encourages) people to call 911 if they have been a victim of sexual assault,” and that if complainants are more comfortable speaking with a female officer, “they can make that request when they call, and every effort will be made to accommodate their request.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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