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Sexual Assault Centres funding
Among Canada’s provinces, Alberta has the third-highest rate of sexual assault.1 In 2015 there were 2,880 incidents of sexual assault (levels 1-3) in Alberta compared to 2,426 in BC and 1,146 in Saskatchewan according to Statistics Canada.The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services say the number of people reporting incidents of sexual assault has increased significantly in recent years. This is supported by Statistics Canada data that says:
Among criminal incidents founded by police, there were more police-reported sexual assaults in 2017 than in any year since 1998. 2
- In rural areas, there is a lack of specialized professionals to support victims, investigate assaults, and collect evidence through a sexual assault examination.
- This is compounded by fears of familiarity, of doing the exam, and confusion surrounding changing protocols that may affect whether evidence is admissible.
- Removing victims from their local community to Alberta’s big cities may lead to re-traumatization.
- Lack of education on consent and how to report a sexual assault (what are a victim’s options).
- Lack of legislation governing the standards/cohesiveness of how to collect evidence of sexual, deficient training in administering the kit, no definition on how long kits are stored.
- Training required for first responders.
- Underreporting of sexual assault in rural areas due to fear of re-victimization, distrust of outsiders, normalization of sexual assault in their communities, fear of not being believed, low anonymity and concern for confidentiality.
Given the critical importance of this issue, a UCP government will:
- Increase funding to sexual assault services centres by $3.5 million annually, up about 20% from $16.5 million currently.
- Work with post-secondary institutions and experienced frontline workers to ensure medical professional students, including future nurses and doctors, are trained on procedural expectations for evidence collection, and sensitivities and myths surrounding victims of sexual assault.
- Empower victims of sexual assault by ensuring a “Third Option” choice to preserve evidence is available so they are not forced to immediately decide whether or not to proceed with a formal report. We would legislate a time frame sexual assault evidence kits must be kept. Victims should be notified at the time of disclosure of this time frame and the fact that they will be contacted within “x” months of the kit being destroyed.
- Ensure all RCMP/Police detachments are equipped to handle and store sexual assault evidence kits. A UCP government will work with the federal government and provide additional funding where necessary.
- Fund a tele-health link that is staffed 24/7 by a designated qualified specialist in sexual assault who can provide real time support and guidance to nurses in rural areas so that victims can remain in their community if they choose to. We estimate this promise will cost $1.5 million annually.
- Create a triage protocol in conjunction with expert stakeholders and front line workers that stipulates the immediate care of a sexual assault victim: consolidate written checklists with clear procedural expectations of immediate sexual assault services for every Emergency Room in Alberta including rural areas and reserves. Ensure that there is a clear body in charge of updating and disseminating this information to healthcare centers across the province.
This is in addition to the recently announced Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking including the Saving the Girl Next Door Act which would empower victims of trafficking to get restraining orders against their abusers and would allow victims to sue traffickers.The United Conservative Party is also committing to maintaining the government’s 50% increase in funding for women’s shelters, from $33M to $51M.