Frontline workers look to City for funding amid high sexual violence case numbers

The Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) in Kingston, located on Elliot Avenue. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

It’s been three years since Kingston Judge, Justice Allan Letourneau, delayed Chance MacDonald’s sentence so that he could finish his internship at DeLoitte. MacDonald, a former Queen’s University student, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl at an initiation party for his hockey team. After his sentence was through, completing 88 days over evenings and weekends, MacDonald, under an alias Andrew MacDonald was scheduled to speak at Queen’s as a guest lecturer, despite backlash.

Since then, Queen’s has been reported in the top five universities in Ontario for police-reported sexual assault, and Kingston has reported the highest increase of police reported sexual assaults in the province, as well as the second-highest child reported sexual assaults for children in Ontario.

In 2018, the Kingston Police received 223 calls of sexual assault, in 2019, there were 179 and between January and March of 2020, there have been 49 calls of sexual assault.

According to Brea Hutchinson, the director of the Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) in Kingston, although there are no conclusive numbers, since the shelter-in-place orders were made for COVID-19, there have been more calls to the centre based around how to cope with living with an abuser and support.

As we move into the middle of June and May, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, ends, Hutchinson, calls for the City of Kingston to do more to address and prevent the numbers of assault the community has been seeing year after year.

“That’s the biggest disappointment, the City is doing nothing,” said Hutchinson. “We share the statistics with our federal and provincial governments and both the province and the federal government recognize that what we’re talking about is true. The municipal government does nothing to support or challenge sexual violence. Continually, the biggest disappointment about working with the City is that they’re so absent on this conversation.”

Before Kingstonist reached out to him with these numbers, Mayor Bryan Paterson claimed that he has not seen them before, however, he said that he wants to do more work to focus on changing things.

“I think my first reaction, to be honest, is that I think that any number of sexual assaults is too many,” he said. “We need to work together with police and community agencies and support groups and be able to do everything we can to get that number lower.”

Hutchinson described the SAC as a one-stop-shop for everything a survivor needs in order to navigate life after a sexual assault. From education and contraception, to testing and counselling, the SAC provides it all. She said that the first step to addressing the problem is believing whole-heartedly that it can be prevented. 

“The first thing we have to talk about is recognizing and accepting that preventing sexual violence is possible,” she said. “Sometimes sexual violence is framed like a miscommunication, that it’s two people not communicating what consent is. But that’s not true. Sexual violence is a power dynamic, it’s about the ability to force one’s will onto another.”

Hutchinson also mentioned that collaborating with the City to address these issues is a key step to preventing such numbers from happening in the future.

“I think we have to look across the province or across the country to see what other leading parties are doing. In Toronto and Vancouver, all of them fund prevention programs,” said Hutchinson. “Prevention is something that I think would work really well within the City’s framework. We want a world free of sexual violence and I think prevention is probably one of the easiest ways for us to step up.”

Currently, the Sexual Assault Centre of Kingston has not received any funding from the municipal government, relying on funding and donations from the community and money from the provincial and federal governments, as well as the United Way, in order to operate. However, Mayor Paterson said that he is looking forward to collaboration efforts.

“It’s certainly something that we’re always open to. I know that there’s a number of community agencies here in the city and at the end of the day, it’s a community issue,” he said.

“Sometimes, the biggest role of the City is to be able to convene partners and bring people together to talk about how we can use existing funding in better and creative ways to be able to help people. “

Kingstonist also reached out to the Kingston Police for information on why they believe the reporting numbers are so high compared to other areas in Ontario and Canada.

Constable Ash Gutheinz, the Media Relations Officer for Kingston Police, said it is due to the trust Kingston Police has been building since 2003 when they developed the Partner Abuse Protocol with the Kingston Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee, as well as the development Sexual Assault Protocol for the City of Kingston and Frontenac County in 2008.

“These good working relationships have helped build trust and confidence in reporting to the Kingston Police once survivors are ready to do so,” said Gutheinz.

Gutheinz also cited the culture shift around sexual assault in which people feel more empowered to speak out. He says this is in part due to the MeToo movement, which sparked an international conversation about sexual assault, reducing the stigma survivors’ face.

“We can see evidence of this through the MeToo movement,” said Gutheinz. “In our Kingston statistics, we saw a fairly dramatic increase in reporting in both 2017 and 2018.”

The increase was also in part because of a definition change by Statistics Canada about what a “founded incident” includes.

In order to prevent sexual violence from occurring in the community, Kingston Police is providing more education surrounding sexual assault related topics to local high schools, St. Lawrence College, Queen’s University, and homeless youth who might be disengaged from the school system, thanks to a provincial grant.

Victim Services of Kingston and County of Frontenac has also received funding for a program called “EyezOn Mobile Tracking,” which is designated for high-risk victims including sexual assault. The survivor activates the device when their safety is in jeopardy and this activates a police notification to respond to the location of the victim.

Finally, to respond to sexual assault related calls, Kingston Police has a dedicated Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit which has six investigators and one sergeant.

According to Gutheinz, the investigators are specifically trained in trauma-informed interviewing techniques, as well as receiving the standardized Sexual Assault training through the Ontario Police College.

Hutchinson’s and Gutheinz advice on how the municipal government can be more vigilant in sexual assault awareness and prevention in the community were mirrored. “Counselling, education and safety planning are important funding streams for our partners, especially to reduce wait time for survivors and reducing burnout for counsellors,” said Gutheinz. “Counselling for male survivors of sexual assault is also an important area of funding. Addressing the root cause is also an important area.”

Jemma Dooreleyers is a Kingstonian who is about to enter her fourth year at Ryerson School of Journalism. She has been a contributor for the Kingstonist in the past and is excited to be a full-time intern. She has written for a number of student publications such as the Ryersonian, Kaleidoscope, the Eyeopener, Her Campus and the White Wall Review. This year, she was the Arts Editor for Ryerson Folio, a general interest magazine. She is currently back in Kingston for the time being, social distancing with her mom, a dog, and two cats.

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