Toronto police launch new site for sex assault survivors

Toronto police have launched a new, interactive website for sex assault survivors who are looking for support and if they choose, information on how to report. is supposed to help survivors make informed decisions on the help they need

People visiting Toronto police's new site can click through informational videos on Sexual Assault Evidence Kits, how-to's on reporting and an interactive map showing outreach and support centres in the city. (

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) has launched a new interactive website for sex assault survivors looking for support and if they choose, information on how to report incidents to police. 

"We knew telling victims to call police wasn't enough," said Det. Const. Deanna Gagliardi of the force's Sex Crimes Unit at the official launch of on Tuesday.

It took a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services, and two years of work, for Toronto police to get the site up and running. 

It also took time to consult sexual assault survivors like Jean-Paul Bédard, who says he's impressed with the Sex Crimes Unit's vision for the website.

"Right away, it told me that this was going to be a much more sensitive project for people like me, people who are impacted by sexual violence," he said. 

The homepage is emblazoned with the words, "We know you're going through a lot, how can we help you?" 
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says he hopes the site empowers survivors. (Oliver Walters/CBC )
Visitors can flip through support options based on whether they need immediate assistance or are asking for a friend who's been sexually assaulted. 

Depending on how urgent the need for help is, visitors will be directed to a page with phone numbers to call, including Toronto Police Victim Services and other non-police agencies like the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape hotline. 

As a sexual assault survivor himself, Jean-Paul Bédard advised the Toronto police on the design of the website. Among the things he said police needed some education on was language used when talking to survivors. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

Chief Mark Saunders says he hopes the site inspires survivors to trust and report to police if they have been hurt. 

Sex assaults are one of the most chronically under reported crimes in Canada, is their initiative to change that. 

"There is not a one-path-fits-all and that's what this states," Saunders said Tuesday. "If we continue on the path we go on, we will continuously have many survivors slip between our fingers."

Survivor-centric language

The Frequently Asked Questions and information sections about consent, your rights and reporting is available in 12 different languages. Bédard wanted to ensure that it was written with survivors in mind.

"This guide helps the Toronto Police Service and officers and detectives who are responding on scene to approach the situation with a completely open mind," he said.
The website includes an interactive tool that allows users to search sex assault and other victim service resources based on their location. (

The site has a section explaining what the myths about sexual assault rape are. It uses the word "survivor" as an umbrella term to refer to anyone who has been sexually assaulted. A disclaimer also reads: "We support a person's right to choose how they wish to be identified."

Bédard hopes this way of interacting with people trickles down to responding officers. 

"Knowing that things like body language, vocabulary they might use, things like that really do impact what the survivor is able to relate at the time of the [police] interview."
In Canada, convictions result from only only one in 10 sexual assault allegations. Bédard says while the website won't ensure eventual convictions in the court system, it's at least an important upgrade from the original Victim Services reporting site. 

"The number one thing that happens when you are impacted by sexual violence is that you feel like you have no control. That you feel completely powerless," he said, drawing from his own experience as a sexual assault survivor. 

"So much of this guide is to show the different levels of not only the police but the court system, how hospitals are involved," he said.

"And how everybody is involved in moving a case toward somewhat of a hopeful resolution for an individual who has been impacted by sexual violence."