Last month, mixed among tweets about the latest celebrity meltdown or sporting event, a new hashtag started popping up:
Canadians, and eventually people around the world, were speaking out about being the victim of sexual assault and never having told police.
A quick search on Twitter yields thousands of results.
That’s the reality of sexual assault. It’s a crime that is rarely reported.
But victims in the Yukon now have another way to tell their story.
Kaushee’s Place, the women’s shelter in Whitehorse, now offers third-party reporting. That means victims of sexual assault can report what happened to trained staff at the shelter. Details of the crime are provided to police, but the victim is able to remain anonymous.
According to Statistics Canada, only about 10 per cent of the victims of sexual assault ever report the crime to the police.
“It doesn’t mean that because there is a low number of them reporting to the RCMP that they’re not talking to people about what happened,” said Renee-Claude Carrier, assistant director at the shelter.
Carrier said her staff often hear the stories.
“People would talk to us about being the victim of a sexualized assault, and then we would have nothing to offer them because they didn’t want to go forward to the RCMP.”
This new method is a way for police to get more information.
Here’s how the process works:
A victim of sexualized assault – male or female – can fill out a report in person or over the phone.
They’ll talk with staff about the different options for reporting what happened.
If the person decides not to go to the police they can fill out what’s known as a third party report.
Third-party reporting is limited to adults. Canadian law says crimes against minors can’t be kept anonymous.
The service is available to both male and female victims.
As much detail as possible is collected, including the assailant’s name if it’s known. But the victim’s name is not included on the report.
“We do not keep the report. We give the report to the police and we keep her name in a sealed envelope in a sealed place. We keep those for as long as the RCMP keep their records,” Carrier said.
Without a victim willing to give his or her name to police, these cases will never make it to court. But that doesn’t mean the reports don’t have value.
“We know that most predators of sexualized violence most often have more than one victim. So this is a way of getting that information out and to the RCMP so that we can do better work,” Carrier said.
If police begin seeing a pattern, officers can reach out to Kaushee’s Place who can then relay a message to the victim.
It is always up to her to choose to come forward or not.
Yukon RCMP Cpl. Calista MacLeod said she would obviously prefer that a victim feels comfortable coming to the police and giving her name.
But having third party reports is better than having no information at all, she said.
Previously, if someone called in anonymously, police would have no way of reaching out to them after the call.
Along with being a go-between if police want to talk to the victim, Kaushee’s Place also gives the victim the police file number and contact information for the officer assigned to the case.
“The person at any time could choose to phone the police themselves,” MacLeod said.
The Yukon’s rate of violent crimes against women was four times the national average in 2004.
When it comes to sexual assault, 92 per cent of Yukon victims will know their attacker. That’s significantly higher than the national average, which is about 80 per cent.
“Which is maybe part of why people choose not to report to police,” MacLeod said.
“I mean there’s a whole gamut of reasons: fear of reprisal, shame, all sorts of things. But we hope that third party is something that gives just another choice, another option for people would not otherwise report to police.”
Third-party reporting is not a new idea.
It has been an option in Ontario for the last 20 years and has been available across British Columbia since the early 2000s.
Tracy Porteous has been working with victims of sexual assault for the last 30 years. She’s currently executive director of the Ending Violence Association of B.C.
“My experience with women who have been sexually assaulting is that they don’t want to bother anybody,” she said.
“But if they think that they can help another woman that’s been sexually assaulted, that might be part of their interest in coming forward.”
While no statistics on third-party reporting are kept in B.C., Porteous said there have been cases where a woman will fill out a third party report and later decide to give the police her name when she hears about other victims.
Cases like that have led to criminal convictions, she said.
But third-party reporting is about more than putting attackers in custody, Porteous said. It’s about giving women a place to go to tell their story.
Being able to tell somebody what happened could make a big difference for victims, she said.
“The psychological injury that takes place for somebody whose been sexually assaulted, regardless of how much physical violence has been perpetrated, is huge.”
Anyone who needs help in the Yukon can call Kaushee’s crisis line at 668-5733.
Contact Ashley Joannou at