Ottawa

Sexual assault reports up more than 50 per cent in Kingston, Ont.

Kingston, Ont., saw the biggest spike in violent crime among all Canadian cities last year, according to new data from Statistics Canada, with a 53 per cent jump in police-reported sexual assaults driving much of the increase.

#MeToo movement credited for spurring increased reporting

Kingston police saw an increase for most violent crimes in 2017, but the increase was especially pronounced for more serious offences, according to Statistics Canada. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Kingston saw the largest spike in violent crime among all Canadian cities last year, according to new data from Statistics Canada, with a 53 per cent jump in police-reported sexual assaults driving much of the increase.

The city's violent crime rate was up 27 per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year, but Statistics Canada said the increase was sharpest for serious offences.

"Not only did violent crime go up in Kingston, but the relative seriousness of crime went up," said Mary Allen, a senior analyst with the agency's Centre for Justice Statistics.

Statistics Canada uses several indicators to measure annual crime levels in communities across the country:

  • The crime rate tracks the number of incidents per 100,000 residents, but it doesn't take into account the type of offences committed.
  • The crime severity index starts with the crime rate, but gives a heavier weight to more serious offences based on sentences handed down by the courts.
  • Violent crime refers to any offence involving violence or the threat of violence against a person.

Kingston's violent crime severity index was up 53 per cent in 2017, outpacing all other Canadian cities.

#MeToo movement spurs increased reporting

Jumps in police-reported sexual assault and attempted murder accounted for about half of the increase in Kingston's violent crime severity index, Allen said.

Kingston police reported a total of 161 sexual assaults in 2017, up from 104 in the previous year.

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose across the country in 2017, Allen said, citing the #MeToo movement as a key factor.

Dozens of women accused disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, helping to spark the #MeToo movement. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

"It's hard for us to know whether this is an actual increase in sexual assault or an an actual increase in the reporting of sexual assault because of that high-profile public discussion," she said.

At the same time, police forces across the country were changing their approach to sexual assault, reviewing the procedures through which they determine whether a case is founded.

"There was a lot going on with that offence in 2017," she said.

'Out of the shadows'

Brea Hutchinson, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, said the #MeToo movement has led to greater public awareness about the importance of reporting — and investigating — cases of sexual assault.

"By creating a community that doesn't shame survivors, that put a priority on supporting and believing survivors, more folks are willing to come forward and have their stories told," she said.

Hutchinson said her team has seen an increase over the past nine months, receiving 50 per cent more cases each month compared to the same time last year.

"MeToo brings so much sexual violence for survivors out of the shadows," Hutchinson said. "We're no longer — I think, as a community — willing to tolerate sexual violence that was seen as acceptable a year ago."

Hutchinson said her organization has had a productive relationship with Kingston police, though there's still more work to be done to make it easier for survivors of sexual violence to come forward.

Overall in Kingston, the crime severity index is still 13 per cent lower than it was in 2007, according to Statistics Canada.

Kingston police were unavailable for comment.

About the Author

Marc-André Cossette

Reporter and Associate Producer

Marc-André Cossette is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. He also works as an associate producer with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Connect with him on Twitter @MarcCossette.

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