Hamilton, Halton police cited in Globe probe
Both have high rate of unfounded sexual assault cases
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