by Anna Przednowek, Violence Against Women hub RA
A recent Globe and Mail article reported on a 20-month-long investigation into how police handle sexual assault allegations across Canada. The investigation found that 1 in 5 sexual assault allegations are filed as unfounded.
Our Violence Against Women hub steering committee member, Sunny Merriner, who is the executive director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre and an anti-violence against women activist, has been at the forefront of these discussions at the local and provincial level. Ms. Merriner is a long-time advocate of the Philadelphia Model, a yearly review process which involves having frontline advocacy groups review sexual-assault files. The model was first implemented in Philadelphia about 17 years ago, and consequently saw the city’s number of unfouded cases drop from about 18 per cent to below 10 per cent.
Here is what Sunny Merriner has said about the recent Globe and Mail investigation and the Philadelphia Model in the news:
“I anticipate that we might be in a place very soon where we will have a Canadian first in adopting the Philadelphia best practices, but we’re not quite there yet.”
From the Ottawa Sun:
“The best practice is to have all the information that the officer had in making the determination. That’s the best way to do review, so anything that gets us as close to that goal as possible is something worth talking about.”
From The Globe and Mail:
“I’m really supportive of any community doing case reviews, but to be worth doing, to be successful, it needs to be the right kind of review. You need the expertise of those who work on the frontline. Sexual assault centres. Advocates who deal with survivors. Only 5 per cent of women report to police. We still talk to the other 95 per cent.”