Sexual assault reporting goes online in Windsor

October 4, 2017
Article Source
The Lawyer's Daily

Sexual assault victims in Windsor, Ont., have a new way of reporting the crime to police. Now they can do so online.

The Windsor Police Service has launched a website that allows any victim who meets three basic criteria to notify the police about what happened. People can use the tool if they aren't in any immediate or ongoing danger, if there is no DNA evidence (including blood, semen, saliva, etc.) that needs to be collected and if they have a safe and secure e-mail address through which the police can contact them.

Victims who are in danger, who are involved in an ongoing domestic abuse situation, who don't have secure communications or who need to be attended to by a physician to have DNA samples collected will be directed to call 9-1-1.

Additionally, the reporting victim must be 16 years old at the time the report is filed. A parent or a guardian can submit a report on behalf of somebody younger than 16. Victims older than 16 don't have to file the report themselves if they have a person such a doctor or a nurse or a sexual assault counsellor, for example, supporting them and willing to file on their behalf.

Sgt. Steve Betteridge, of the Windsor Police Service’s public information office, said that by offering a tool like this, he hopes it will encourage more victims to report their assaults.

"Nine out of 10 sexual assaults go unreported. That is a staggering statistic and we are aiming to do something about that. We're certainly hoping this will help."

Another thing that Betteridge said may help is that sexual assaults may be reported anonymously. By putting the choice in how to proceed in the victims' hands, they're given more control over their situations.

"Once that online process commences, essentially they do have a case number and at any time, if they so choose they can say 'I wish not to be anonymous and to move forward with this.' And then the investigation would continue.

"Obviously we are bound by the Criminal Code and if there was reasonable grounds for an arrest, then absolutely our job is to enforce the law. And there is no statute of limitation on sexual assault, so time is not really an issue or a concern as far as there is no time pressure for any victim to say, the clock is running out as to when I could change my mind."

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