P.E.I. should adopt 'third option' for reporting sexual assault cases: Opposition
System in use elsewhere in Canada could increase rate of reporting in P.E.I., says MLA
The Official Opposition is urging the P.E.I. government to make a so-called 'third option' available for victims of sexual assault who want to go to police.
Similar to a program operating in the Yukon, the third option allows victims of sexual assault to go to an emergency room to have forensic evidence collected in the form of a rape kit.
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But instead of sending that evidence to police, it's put in storage for up to a year, giving the victim time to decide whether to pursue a formal complaint.
If they hesitate or don't feel comfortable coming forward, that evidence is lost.— Sidney MacEwen
"Someone feels they have been sexually assaulted, and they don't want to immediately go in and be interviewed by police, or they don't feel comfortable talking to police at that time, that might hold them back from immediately going to the hospital," said PC MLA Sidney MacEwen.
Important to get forensic evidence 'right away'
Currently, when evidence is collected in an emergency room on P.E.I., the case is immediately reported to police.
"It's important to get that forensic information and evidence right away," MacEwen said.
"If they hesitate or don't feel comfortable coming forward, that evidence is lost. What we're trying to do here is make sure we get the most sexual assaults reported."
In question period Thursday, Minister for the Status of Women Paula Biggar noted there have been discussions about bringing in the third option for reporting sexual assault cases in P.E.I.
"Within the hospitals, that is a protocol that has to be put in place to follow the line of evidence," Biggar said.
"It is something that's being discussed, but it requires a co-ordination to ensure that evidence is secure."
'Sexual assault is something that we have to understand'
In question period the Opposition asked government, again, to publish a review looking at three years of sexual assault complaints made to Island police forces.
One of the things that we're all learning is that sexual assault is something that we have to understand.— Wade MacLauchlan
The review was undertaken after a report in the Globe and Mail earlier this year which found 27 per cent of sexual assault complaints made on P.E.I. were deemed "unfounded" by police. The national rate was 19 per cent.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who's also the province's justice minister, said the province was working to develop standards for investigating and reporting sexual assaults in the province.
"One of the things that we're all learning is that sexual assault is something that we have to understand, the trauma, the experience, and that belongs to police forces as well as to others in society who work to support victims," MacLauchlan said.
Police, crown attorneys and others from across the province took part in training earlier this month on sexual assault investigations.
In an email a government spokesperson said that training "related to the neurobiology of trauma and forensic analysis."
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