Source: Ottawa Police Service
On Tuesday, Metro reported the charging rate for sexual assault reports against adults and children fell to its lowest point – 39 per cent – in a seven-year period.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada police released the data on sexual assaults and assaults from 2008 to 2014 under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
In that period, charges were laid in no more than half of all the city’s sexual assault reports, according to the data. Victims’ groups say the rate would drop significantly to the 20 per cent range if the data on child sexual assault was excluded.
The data also showed that while the number of victims' complaints deemed “unfounded” dropped, the number of cases deemed "founded not solved" soared to its highest level in seven years.
Founded not solved means an officer – after an initial investigation – determined there was not enough evidence to lay a charge.
Crew argued the high number of cases deemed founded not solved is indicative of the police’s sex abuse unit needing additional resources to investigate each complaint.
“If there’s a doubling in 2012 in the number of cases," he said, "I don’t know how they could have the resources to do it."
The charge rate for Ottawa sexual assaults would be much lower if data on child victims were not included, says a professor in sexual assault law.
The rate at which Ottawa police lay charges for sexual offences seems to be higher when that rate includes child victims because consent is not as much of an issue when investigating a minor compared to an adult, according to a sexual assault expert.
Blair Crew, a part-time University of Ottawa professor in sexual assault law and review counsel at the school's community legal clinic, says children are treated much differently when they report a sexual abuse.
“The police feel the need to sort of check out her story on the issue of consent for an adult woman in a way that they simply never do with children,” said Crew.
“The issue of consent with a child is irrelevant in any event because of the statutory rape laws and age of consent laws. There’s never a question of ‘what did the complainant do,’ ‘was there a possibility of consent?’
“All those things women go through, children never do.”
He argued that adult complainants often face much more scrutiny and skepticism than child complainants would – something he says is common across all police forces.
“There is no casual touching that is ever appropriate. Whereas I think that sometimes there’s a tendency to write off exploratory, if non-consensual, touching by a man to a woman within an adult context,” he added.