2021 was the highest year on record for sexual assaults reported to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in North West Region. From January 1 to December 31, 2021, approximately 429 sexual assaults were reported. This is a 31% increase from 2020, with 327 incidents having been reported that year. Broken down by the detachment that investigated these incidents, this includes:
- 26 – Dryden OPP;
- 51 – Rainy River OPP;
- 41 – Greenstone OPP;
- 85 – Kenora OPP
- 18 – Marathon OPP;
- 14 – Nipigon OPP;
- 58 – Red Lake OPP;
- 112 – Sioux Lookout OPP; and,
- 24 – Thunder Bay OPP.
According to an April 2019 report from the Department of Justice, it is estimated that only five per cent of the victims will report a sexual assault incident to police. The most frequent reasons for not reporting sexual abuse were: the participants thought that they would not be believed, they felt ashamed or embarrassed, they did not know they could report the abuse, and they had no family support.
The OPP takes allegations of sexual assault and violence seriously and is dedicated to enhancing their response and support for victims. The Victim Response Support Unit (VRSU) provides guidance to members to ensure Sexual Assault investigations achieve the best possible outcomes for victims. In 2021, they developed, “Using a Trauma-Informed Approach” training, which was mandatory learning for all members. This training focused on defining trauma and a trauma-informed approach, the role of law enforcement, impacts of training and coping mechanisms. Additional training includes the Sexual Assault Interviewer Program, which has led to positive results in the OPP’s approach and response to these incidents across North West Region.
Since 2018, VRSU members have been working collaboratively with the Regional Collaborative Review Committee (RCRC). This Committee includes representatives from victim services, child protection services, cultural advocates and victim advocate/support groups. RCRC holds monthly meetings to review sexual assault investigations to identify systemic issues and trends. Additionally, this committee helps to ensure compliance with the Victims’ Bill of Rights, which stipulates that every victim should have access to information regarding their case and support services.
The OPP encourages all citizens to educate themselves on sexual assault by visiting 1istoomany.ca. This webpage includes important information on consent, supports available to victims and the process for reporting sexual assault to police. Content is available in both English and Anishinaabemowin.
To report a sexual assault to the Ontario Provincial Police, please call 1-888-310-1122 (toll-free in Ontario), or dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.