Reports of teen sexual assault spike in Windsor-Essex

The number of girls in Windsor reporting sexual assault is on the rise, coming almost daily in the last few weeks.

Since Rehtaeh Parsons suicide, Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Essex County has fielded almost daily reports

Grade 9 girls at Riverside High School have been discussing the Rehtaeh Parsons death. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC News)

The number of girls in Windsor reporting sexual assault is on the rise.

Last year, the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Essex County received 57 reports of allegedly sexually assaulted teenage girls. In the two weeks following the suicide of Nova Scotia's 16-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, who said she was sexual assaulted, the centre has received 11 such reports among girls 13-15.

Lydia Fiorini is the centre's director said this is the highest number of reports the centre has ever seen in such a short time.

"When young people see that there's other people who've seen a very similar impact, the isolation is broken, they feel like they're not alone," Fiorini said. "But the other piece they also recognize that they can relate to the pain and the devastation that those young people were experiencing."

Fiorini said that in the last five years, the centre has heard about more assaults happening during the transitional years, between elementary and high school and between high school and university.

She said it's because during those years, young women are trying to fit into their new community and trying to find new friends.

Fiorini said more reported assaults are a good thing. It means more young women will be able to get help before it's too late, she said.

"When young people are assaulted they generally feel a high level of isolation. But when they're hearing about these other cases, they recognize that they're not the only ones," she said.

Fiorini said the spike in numbers doesn't necessarily mean more assaults happening but the victims are coming forward more often.

Teenagers are among the least likely to report sexual assault because of fear and shame, she said.

At Riverside High School in Windsor, Ont., Grade 9 girls have been talking about Parsons.

"It's so easy to say if I was in that situation I would go and get help. But you're not in that situation. You don't know what it's like. It's scary," said Maeve Conlon.

Fiorini said teens don't always come forward because they are afraid of what their parents will think; are afraid of being bullied by peers; and afraid of getting in trouble, especially if the assault happened while they were drinking under age.

Fiorini said alcohol blinds the youth to social cues.