News Local

Vancouver sex offence rate stagnant

By Stefania Seccia

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

While violent crimes in Vancouver have seen a significant decline in the last decade, there’s one statistic that refuses to budge — sexual offences.

According to the Vancouver Police Department’s quarterly Key Performance Indicator report, violent crimes decreased 7% from January to September 2014 compared to the same period this year. It’s also significantly declined for the last three years, from 4,358 reports in 2012 to 3,627 so far in 2015.

But the one statistic that seems to hover from 2006 to this year is sexual offences, from 292 reported in 2006 to 319 this year; and every year in between ranging from 296 to 365 annually.

Const. Brian Montague, VPD spokesman, said police have tried to encourage more victims to report because they can’t do anything “unless we’re aware that it’s happening.”

“There’s a number of campaigns, educational and awareness opportunities we take to try and reduce the number of offences and increase reporting,” he said. “It’s hard for us to say definitively why it goes up and why it goes down.

“There are so many reasons people don’t report to police.”

Janine Benedet, professor of law at the University of B.C., said rates of reported sexual assault are only reported 15% of the time.

Benedet said the number should be higher as there were far more than 319 sexual assaults reported so far this year.

“We should expect that with the aging population, we should naturally see a decrease there like we do for other types of violent crimes,” she said. “It tells us we have a lot of work to do around educating young men, about the laws on sexual assault and ensuring we have a true affirmative consent standard.”

There are many protections for victims of sexual assault to come forward, but “it’s a question about believing women when they come to report them and not treating them with suspicion.”

“I think women self-select out, they say, ‘What is the point of all this if I don’t fit the profile of the perfect victim,’” she said. “And few do.

“The women I’ve met who are survivors of sexual assault are tough, and they’re brave and with the right support they can make complaints and hold rapists accountable and they can do just fine.”

Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, executive director of the Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre, said it’s not surprising the VPD stats have not decreased year to year. Women respond to sexual violence differently and “have the right to choose their own path to healing and justice.”

“Women do in fact choose to see justice through the court system; the reality is that, according to our rape crisis centre statistics, fewer than 5% of all reported sexual assaults end in a conviction before the courts,” she said.

“Change for women will only come when police, courts and individual perpetrators are held accountable for perpetuating violence against women.”