Mil­i­tary sees rise in sex-as­sault re­ports

Dra­matic in­crease a sign that crack­down is hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact, Cana­dian Forces says

StarMetro Edmonton - - CANADA & WORLD - Lee Berthi­aume

“PEO­PLE FEEL FREE TO COME FOR­WARD.” Com­modore Re­becca Pat­ter­son

OT­TAWA—The Cana­dian Forces are ex­plain­ing a dra­matic in­crease in the num­ber of sex­ual as­sault re­ports last year as proof that ef­forts to crack down on such il­licit be­hav­iour in the mil­i­tary are hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact — and not that there have been more ac­tual crimes.

Mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties re­ceived 111 re­ports of sex­ual as­sault be­tween April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures pro­vided to The Cana­dian Press. That was more than dou­ble the 47 such re­ports re­ceived over the pre­vi­ous year.

While those num­bers ap­pear trou­bling, at least on the sur­face, the head of the mil­i­tary’s sex­ual mis­con­duct re­sponse team sug­gested that they in fact rep­re­sent a sign of progress in the Forces’ com­mit­ment to elim­i­nate such of­fences from the ranks.

“It’s a pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tion that peo­ple feel free to come for­ward,” Com­modore Re­becca Pat­ter­son, who took over com­mand of the re­sponse team in July, said in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day.

“We have to com­bine that with the fact that things that may have been over­looked in the past are now be­ing re­ported be­cause there is the un­der­stand­ing among mem­bers of the (mil­i­tary) that they will re­port if they see things.”

How­ever, the mil­i­tary did not pro­vide a break­down on when the al­leged sex­ual as­saults ac­tu­ally oc­curred, and Pat­ter­son ad­mit­ted that of­fi­cials are still wrestling with ques­tions about the fig­ures, which were gath­ered from across the en­tire Forces.

One thing that is clear is that in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour con­tin­ued to oc­cur within the Forces over the past year.

That was de­spite Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the de­fence staff, re­peat­edly promis­ing to adopt a zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to sex­ual mis­con­duct in the ranks, and warn­ing those who didn’t lis­ten that they would be se­verely pun­ished. That in­cludes kick­ing out dozens of mil­i­tary mem­bers and speeding up courts mar­tial for al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual crimes. Work in mil­i­tary con­tin­ues. More at thes­tar.com/canada

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