'Third option' program for reporting sexual assault expands in central Alberta
Choice to store rape kit evidence for up to a year now more widely available
Alberta Health Services and the RCMP are expanding to more areas in central Alberta what is known as the Third Option program for reporting sexual assaults.
The program gives people who have been sexually assaulted the choice to have evidence from rape kits stored for up to a year before they decide whether to pursue charges. It will now be available in Red Deer and in AHS Edmonton Zone rural hospitals.
"Third Option allows our patients time to focus on healing first, while preserving important forensic evidence, should they decide in the future that reporting the assault to police is right for them," Chrystal Ference, AHS Edmonton Zone public health director, said in a news release on Tuesday.
RCMP now provide support at the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital, the Leduc Community Hospital, the Sturgeon Community Hospital, the Strathcona Community Hospital, the WestView Health Centre, the Devon General Hospital and the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Before the program was launched in other areas of the province, survivors of sexual assault had two options: report and pursue an investigation right away, or choose not to report an assault to police.
Through the Third Option program, forensic evidence is collected within seven days of the assault and stored confidentially for one year, giving those who have been sexually assaulted up to a year to pursue charges, with evidence intact.
The program is already available throughout the city of Edmonton and in the AHS Calgary Zone, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.
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Last year, in a first of its kind conviction in Calgary, former University of Toronto medical student Prachur Shrivastava was found guilty of sexual assault. The defence lawyer in the case had challenged the admissibility of evidence from a Third Option rape kit.