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Commentary: MLAs must show true leadership

“The majority of victims of sexual assault postpone reporting the incident to police or anyone else,” said RCMP Deanna Fontaine

With the number of sexual assaults in Alberta on the rise, it is high time for provincial elected officials to step up the fight against offenders and to do more, much more, in support of victims.

As the province recognizes Sexual Violence Awareness Month, the scope of the problem highlights an immediate need for action. Whether MLAs being elected to the legislature this week will prove up to the job remains to be seen.

What is known is that Alberta RCMP is already taking a lead role in trying to address what has become an intolerable situation, with almost 2,500 reports of sexual violence filed in 2022 compared with 1,756 in 2016.

For example, the RCMP has partnered with local community sexual assault support centres to launch the new Supportive Reporting Programs (SRP).

Under the initiative, victims of sexual assault can file a police report relating to sexual violence through a third party individual who becomes a designated advocate that works with the police and the victim.

The advocate arranges a time and place for the victim to meet with specially-trained police investigators to receive support and help move things through the judicial process.

“The majority of victims of sexual assault postpone reporting the incident to police or anyone else,” said RCMP Deanna Fontaine, sexual assault review coordinator for Alberta RCMP. 

“The reasons are distinct for each individual and may include the victim’s feelings of shame, embarrassment, shock, denial, self-blame, uncertainty, a lack of confidence in the justice process and fear of not being believed.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women Tanya Fir says, “Sexual violence often lives in the shadows. Preventing and addressing it is everyone’s responsibility and we all have a role to play in creating safer communities.”

The increase in reported sexual violence incidents in Alberta highlights in stake terms the need for immediate action.

As such, Albertans will expect every MLA being elected this week to work to address this troubling and wholly unacceptable situation in the coming months.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.

Dan Singleton

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