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Rise In Sexual Assault ‘Not Surprising’: SVNB

Aug 4, 2022 | 8:15 AM

Sydney Sims / Unsplash

A new report from Statistics Canada shows that 2021 saw the largest spike in reported sexual assault cases across the country since 1996.

The grim news, however, is not too surprising, according to Sexual Violence New Brunswick (SVNB), an organization dedicated to providing information, support and counselling to survivors of sexual violence.

Jennifer Richard, director of strategic development director at SVNB, said there was a dip in the number of reported sexual assault cases when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in 2020.

But it is slowly going back up.

“Sexual violence is probably the most underreported crime,” said Richard during a Tuesday phone interview. “It used to be 10 per cent and then it went down to five per cent and now, according to the study, six per cent are now reported to the police, so it’s gone up a little bit.”

Richards said Canada went through a culture shift when it came to talking about sexual violence more openly after the #metoo movement and the Jian Ghomeshi case in 2017, which she believes could be just one of the reasons more survivors come forward.

But, it is hard to say if the spike in reported cases is the direct result of that increased comfort. Richards noted, however, that police forces and community organizations, such as Sexual Violence New Brunswick, are doing more to help survivors of sexual violence.

“There has been a lot of work around training and raising awareness within the police forces on how to respond to sexual violence cases in a more trauma-informed way,” she said.

“Somebody may talk to somebody else and say, ‘I did report it to this officer and they believed me, showed me respect, were compassionate and considerate,’ and that may contribute to others also coming forward.”

Richards said her organization has seen an increase in provincial traffic over the last five years, especially with its counseling services and its sexual support phone lines. She adds support centres across Canada are struggling to keep up with the demand for services.

“We’re calling it a pandemic within a pandemic,” said Richards.

“We are all really struggling to keep up with the demand with limited funding and limited resources to provide these services.

Richards said if someone comes forward about any form of sexual violence, the first thing people should do is believe them, regardless of anything, is to just believe them, listen to them.

“It is not up to the person who’s receiving the disclosure to solve everything and fix everything,” said Richard.

“Ask them what they need and you can help them find that next link in the chain that can help support them.”

If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, resources are available below:

Sexual Violence New Brunswick Hotline: (506) 454-0437

CHIMO Hotline (mental health crises and suicide hotline): (506) 453-2132

Transitional Houses for Abused Women: Click here


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