Calls to sexual assault centre up after Jian Ghomeshi allegations

The number of calls to the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Centre has increased since news of allegations against Jian Ghomeshi broke last week.

Saskatoon sexual assault centre says news triggers memories

Jian Ghomeshi, former host of CBC Radio's national daily talk program, Q. (CBC)

The number of calls to the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Centre has increased since news of allegations against Jian Ghomeshi broke last week.

Ghomeshi was fired by the CBC after it said "graphic evidence" emerged that he had caused "physical injury" to a woman.

As many as nine women have alleged in media reports that Ghomeshi abused them physically and/or sexually.

Three women have spoken to police about the former host of the arts, culture and entertainment show Q.

Ghomeshi has not been charged with any criminal offence, and has said all acts involving rough sex with women were consensual.

Heather Pocock is the Assistant Director & Public Educations Coordinator at the Saskatoon Sexual Assault & Information Centre. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)
​Ghomeshi has not responded to CBC requests for comment on his accusers' allegations.

Heather Pocock, assistant director of the Saskatoon assault centre, said news reports have triggered memories for many people.  In some cases, that prompts calls to the centre.  Most of them simply want to talk.

"Research says most people don't talk to anyone," she said.

"Well, I think every time something like this breaks in the news people start to think about their own circumstances and their own situation and they reach out for somebody to talk to."

Pocock said she is not surprised many don't report abuse to the police.  She said they are afraid they will be blamed or they are skeptical of the justice system.

She wants victims to know there are people here who will listen, and help.

"If people really feel like they need to say something or to get help, we want them to know there are services that exist on their behalf."

Pocock said that she'll be speaking with police to ask whether the increase in calls to the centre's crisis line is matched by a corresponding increase in calls to police.

"It may, it may not. It just depends on the circumstances."

The Saskatoon Sexual Assault & Information Centre offers around-the-clock support through its 24-hour crisis line at 306-244-2224.

Anyone is invited to call the line at any time. Crisis line workers provide information, support and referrals to anyone dealing directly or indirectly with issues of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

The centre also offers crisis and short-term sexual assault counselling, for recent or past sexual abuse. To inquire about booking an appointment call 306-244-2294.

The role of police and victim services

Linda Perrett is the Coordinator of Victim Services for the Saskatoon Police Service. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)
Linda Perrett, Coordinator of Saskatoon Police Service's victim services, said it is too soon to tell if her department will also see the same sort of increase as workers have at the city's sexual assault centre.

Perrett explained that victim services works with people from the point they report an alleged crime to police through whatever police investigation and judicial process that may follow.

"One of the problems with going to court is that you need such a high level of evidence," Perrett said of her work with victims of alleged sexual assaults. "Unfortunately, the victim's credibility is often what is questioned."

Perrett explained that once a victim makes the often difficult decision to take their claims of a sexual assault to court, the file is given to a prosecutor who reviews the case to determine whether there is enough evidence to lay a charge.

"In sexual assault cases you usually only have the perpetrator and the victim and so it becomes a situation of he says, she says," Perrett said. "It can be very, very difficult for a victim to testify in court under those conditions."

Perrett said victim services attempts to make this process easier for people who decide they want to go through the judicial process by referring them to support resources in the community that can help.

"The other thing I tell victims is that the court is not a healing process," Perrett said. "Your healing should come outside of that ... but don't count on the court system to be a healing process, because it generally isn't for victims."