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How My Sexual Assault Centre Failed Me

by August 4, 2016
filed under Activism
Topics ,

Flickr: David Challoner

I didn’t report my sexual assault to the police for a number of reasons. Most of these reasons are related to fear. I talked, off the record, to a detective on the sexual assault unit, but was told my case had very little chance of going to trial. There was, however, another reporting option called Third Party Reporting, which was something I wanted to pursue.

Third Party Reporting essentially means that you can file an anonymous report to the police through the sexual assault centre. A report would be made at the centre and would be faxed off to the police with only a file number attached, so there would be no identifying information on the report. If the police read over the report and find that there are grounds to move forward with the case, they will contact the centre to let them know that – the centre would then contact the person who filled out the report and that survivor is then given the option if they would like to speak further to the police or not. This felt like the only viable option for me, so I emailed my university sexual assault centre – a leading one in the field – for general info asking who would be the best person to talk to about this reporting option. I was responded to the next day with this email:

Hello Stephanie
Regarding 3rd party reporting, this was something that evolved from our partnership with EPS. We have forms here that are completed by clients that would like to report the offender but not include their identifying information. We have them complete a detailed form regarding the sexual assault, then keep their names separate and fax the information into EPS in case there is a serial perpetrator with several victims. If EPS contacts us we would only give out the person’s name with their permission.
If you have any other questions just let me know.
Thanks
Karen

I was happy that I was responded to, however, this wasn’t the information I was looking for. I responded to this email that same day asking her my specific questions. My anxiety was running off the charts – I was scared – I was vulnerable – and I knew that my courage to tackle this wasn’t going to last much longer. I sat and waited for a response. I waited… And waited… And waited. A few weeks went by and I gave up on the idea that I was ever going to be responded to – that I was ever going to be taken seriously. My courage was gone and my trauma took center stage again – I reeled in this pain for a few nights and then I had decided to run an experiment. I sent an email to the much smaller university Sexual Assault Centre to see what would happen and if they would reply to individuals on a timely manner – even if that individual was not a university student. I sent an email to them and within hours I was provided with all the information I was asking for, including the care and compassion from the staff there. I felt heard and supported – a feeling I didn’t received with the main centre.

That is when I wrote a facebook rant about my experience. How could a centre that is supposed to be the leading one in this field, for this city, be so tardy with providing vitally important information. How could a centre like this fail so many times to provide care, compassion and support?

When I woke up the next morning, I had a private message on my facebook with the new executive director of the centre (she was previously the assistant executive director). The message was very kind and very apologetic. She was on a vacation in Europe, but still felt the need to reach out and deal with this matter immediately. She asked me to provide additional information and then she got in contact with those who work at the centre to get to the bottom of what was going on and what was taking so long. By the end of that working day, I had a response from the centre. So it wasn’t until getting spoken to by the executive director that the staff did their job? As I began to read this email, my heart began to sink. She had completely disregarded a question I had asked and instead sent this:

Stephanie
After checking with the [police] they prefer if we offer the 3rd party reporting to our clients. After speaking with some of our staff that have volunteered at the U of A, it sounds like they do not have the same parameters about being a client. It might be good to check with them in order to file the report if you are still interested.
Karen

This reporting option was really my only option for justice and I had yet another door slammed into my face. I realized that the option itself wasn’t completely closed, as I did have another avenue I could try. But at this point, I was far too exhausted for any more – not to mention I was confused as hell. If this information was correct, how could our police put up parameters for this reporting option with one organization but not the other? Something just didn’t make sense. If this was true, why are parameters like this in place anyway? The rate of reporting sexual assault is horrendously low to begin with – shouldn’t we be making any type of reporting option as viable for survivors as possible? When an organization is exceptionally tardy with responding to important questions like this and then bounce that survivor around to another organization, I feel like the assumption can easily be made that they lose a lot of survivors through the cracks who need help or want to report. How can we be turning survivors away that want to report their assault simply because they’re not accessing their specific counselling services? What if someone can’t access their specific counselling services because of transportation reasons, or what if someone chooses to access counselling services from elsewhere because their wait-list is so long? Are they really going to turn all those people away too?

I am unsure at this point which direction I may go next, but what I do know for sure is we need better services for survivors of sexual assault. We need care, compassion, openness and support for survivors – which we seem to have a serious lack of. We need a place where every survivor feels safe. We need a place where survivors can go for support and not leave feeling more injured. We simply need to do better.

Read the whole story here.


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