Hamil­ton, Hal­ton po­lice cited in Globe probe

Both have high rate of un­founded sex­ual as­sault cases

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - NI­COLE O’REILLY The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

HAMIL­TON PO­LICE DIS­MISS more sex­ual as­sault com­plaints than many other po­lice ser­vices across the coun­try.

That’s ac­cord­ing to num­bers ob­tained through free­dom of in­for­ma­tion by The Globe and Mail and pub­lished as part of a 20-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion into “un­founded” sex­ual as­sault claims — those which po­lice clas­sify as un­true.

The re­port re­vealed that Hamil­ton’s rate of un­founded sex­ual as­sault cases is 30 per cent — well above the na­tional av­er­age of 19 per cent.

Lenore Lukasik-Foss, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sex­ual As­sault Cen­tre Hamil­ton & Area (SACHA), said those work­ing on the front lines have long ex­pressed con­cern about as­sault sur­vivors not be­ing be­lieved. But still, she found the high rate stag­ger­ing.

“I knew this was a prob­lem ... it’s a flag that many sex­ual as­sault ad­vo­cates have been rais­ing for a long time,” she said.

But when she saw the num­bers: “I thought Hamil­ton’s rate was high ... I was like wow.”

Lukasik-Foss said she in­tends to raise the find­ings with col­leagues on the Sex­ual Of­fences Review Team — com­posed of po­lice, a crown at­tor­ney and var­i­ous so­cial ser­vice agen­cies in the hopes of chang­ing the way sex­ual as­sault com­plaints are dealt with.

Ac­cord­ing to the Globe se­ries, which looked at sta­tis­tics be­tween 2010 and

“I knew this was a prob­lem ... it’s a flag that many sex­ual as­sault ad­vo­cates have been rais­ing for a long time.” LENORE LUKASIK-FOSS EX­EC­U­TIVE DI­REC­TOR, SEX­UAL AS­SAULT CEN­TRE HAMIL­TON & AREA

2014, there were 646 al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­saults re­ported to Hamil­ton po­lice that of­fi­cers said were not true. The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor has not yet been able to in­de­pen­dently ac­cess these sta­tis­tics.

The Hamil­ton Po­lice Ser­vice has not com­mented on whether it will review its cases, but Const. Steve Wel­ton said it con­tin­u­ally re­views and an­a­lyzes sex­ual as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tions and their out­comes.

He added that po­lice work closely with many com­mu­nity part­ners, in­clud­ing SACHA. Hamil­ton also has a ded­i­cated team of sex­ual as­sault de­tec­tives.

“We con­tinue to en­cour­age vic­tims to reach out to po­lice so we can in­ves­ti­gate,” he said.

Hal­ton po­lice, who sim­i­larly have a 30 per cent “un­founded” rate ac­cord­ing to the Globe and Mail, noted that they are aware of the find­ings and have com­mit­ted to re­view­ing cases.

“The po­lice ser­vice is un­der­tak­ing a review of all un­founded sex­ual as­sault oc­cur­rences, be­gin­ning with 2016, and will is­sue a me­dia re­lease when that review has been com­pleted,” Hal­ton po­lice Sgt. Barry Mal­ciw said in a state­ment.

He noted there are a va­ri­ety of rea­sons a case can be de­clared un­founded, in­clud­ing the in­ci­dent be­ing im­prop­erly clas­si­fied to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion show­ing that the in­ci­dent

did not oc­cur.

The Lon­don Po­lice Ser­vice, who were a fo­cus of the Globe’s re­port­ing, an­nounced it will con­duct a review of how it han­dles sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions.

Lukasik-Foss added that she would like to see the 2015 and 2016 num­bers, which she hopes would show that rate drop­ping.

The is­sue is not about of­fi­cers be­ing lazy or mean, but rather lack­ing the train­ing to un­der­stand how the trauma of a sex­ual as­sault can im­pact a vic­tim’s be­hav­iour or mem­ory, she said.

Vic­tims who do not act in the “stereo­typ­i­cal no­tion” are of­ten not be­lieved. For in­stance, not seem­ing up­set enough or not re­mem­ber­ing de­tails.

There is plenty of ev­i­dence around trauma, the brain and mem­ory that sug­gests vic­tims should be given time (es­pe­cially of­ten to sleep) be­fore be­ing ques­tioned, Lukasik-Foss said.

There is also a need for more train­ing around trauma, she added.

Lukasik-Foss pointed to changes made in Philadel­phia where a vic­tim ad­vo­cate re­views sex­ual as­sault files as an ex­am­ple of a good step.

Lenore Lukasik-Foss, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Sex­ual As­sault Cen­tre

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