PEI has the 4th highest rate of sexual assault cases being held as “unfounded”

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In the “Annual Report 2015-2016” released by the PEI Department of Justice and Public Safety, the government outlined projects that began in 2015-2016 and have continued, working to improve services to victims. The report stated that of the most frequent types of crime reported to Victim Service in 2015-2016, sexual assault was 12% of calls. Regarding , the document listed the following two initiatives:

  • Assisting in the development of Enhanced Emergency Sexual Assault Services which includes enhanced training and protocols for health care providers in emergency room departments;
  • Participating in an advisory capacity to the RESPECT Project: Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence in PEI

Following a Feb 3rd, Globe and Mail report “UNFOUNDED: Why Police Dismiss 1 in 5 Sexual Assault Claims as Baseless” that stated that PEI Police dismiss 27% of sexual assault complaints as unfouded.  Unfounded cases are those that the police determined no crime has occured. The PEI Department of Justice and Public Safety asked police services to review all sexual assault cases from 2014-2016 that were found to be unfounded. PEI’s rate of sexual-assult complaints as unfounded is the forth highest in the country, after New Brunswick (32%), the Northwest Territories (30%), and Nunavut (28%). The national rate is 19%. The lowest average across the country is in British Columbia (11%).

Representatives from the Department of Justice and Pubic Safety commented in a CBC article:

“The goal is to obtain a better understanding of local findings, to ensure consistent and accurate reporting of cases and to make sure that the necessary resources are in place to support victims reporting sexual assaults, and that those supports are closely aligned across agencies (police agencies, victim services, community supports).”

Jane Ledwell, the Executive Direction of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women stated in the same CBC article: “To know that more than a quarter of those that do make it to police are being recorded as unfounded, is very, very troubling.”

Victims of sexual assault are less likely to report to the police. Statistics Canada, regarding sexual assault trends in the country:

“Of the three types of violent offences recorded by the GSS, sexual assault was the least likely to be reported to the police. Less than one in ten incidents of sexual assault were reported to the police, a proportion significantly lower than that for the other violent offences, robbery (47%) and physical assault (40%).”

Regarding sexual-assault response by PEI service providers, Jane Ledwell commented to CBC:

“There are tremendous opportunities to improve our sexual assault response from a health and justice perspective in Prince Edward Island, to make it possible for women and others who are assaulted to be able to report their assaults, to feel that they will be believed and to trust that it will be followed up on appropriately”

Members from the Department of Justice and Public Safety are attending a national conference next week, Justice Canada Knowledge Exchange 2017. The topic, how our criminal justice system responds to sexual assault complaints.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.