Sexual assault reports jump dramatically on P.E.I.
'P.E.I. may be at the leading edge of a curve'
Reports of level 1 sexual assaults on P.E.I. were up more than 50 per cent in 2018, according to Statistics Canada.
Nearly all, 98 per cent, of police-reported sexual assaults in Canada are classified as level 1, meaning these assaults did not involve a weapon or evidence of bodily harm. On P.E.I., reports of higher level sexual assault are rare, with just seven in the last 10 years.
The incident-based crime statistics report shows 109 level 1 reports in 2018, as compared to just 69 in 2017. The second highest number in the previous decade was 84 in 2013.
Statistics Canada noted sexual assaults often go unreported to police, and there were more reports in every province. That increase corresponds to more public discussion of sexual violence, for example, discussions surrounding the #metoo movement.
"What this suggests is that there is an increase in the reporting rather than the commission of the crime," said Rachael Crowder, executive director of the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.
"This may be sending a signal to survivors that things might be changing in how their reports of sexualized violence will be received."
Crowder noted that the increase in reports on P.E.I., at 55 per cent, is much higher than the 15 per cent increase nationally. That, she said, is much harder to explain.
It could be media coverage was relatively more extensive on the Island, she said, or perhaps the small size of the Island makes it easier for messages like this to spread.
"We're a bit unique here because we are so much more interconnected, let's say, than folks in other provinces," said Crowder.
"I'm also wondering if P.E.I. may be at the leading edge of a curve that the rest of the country may catch up to."
The rate of reported sexual assaults per 100,000 population on P.E.I. in 2018, at 69.82, remains below the national average of 75.89 despite the recent spike.