High number of reported sexual assaults in Regina may be related to more public awareness, advocate says

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Lisa Miller, Regina Sexual Assault Centre executive director, says her organization sees a lot of people who don't report assaults to the police. (CBC - image credit)
Lisa Miller, Regina Sexual Assault Centre executive director, says her organization sees a lot of people who don't report assaults to the police. (CBC - image credit)

The high number of reported sexual assaults in Regina in 2020 is worrying, but the head of the Regina Sexual Assault Centre says an increase in reporting is often a sign of increased awareness around sexual violence.

The Regina Police Service released its year-end crime statistics for 2020 on Tuesday, listing 186 reported sexual assaults. That number is higher than the 10-year average of 149, but the numbers were already high in 2018 (when 200 sexual assaults were reported) and 2019 (189 sexual assaults).

"There was a considerable increase in sort of that 2017, 2018 time period, which was … related to a lot more conversation in our communities about sexual violence, including the MeToo movement," said Lisa Miller, executive director of the Regina Sexual Assault Centre.

"Oftentimes what we see is ... some spikes in reporting when there's public awareness around sexual violence, and then we will see it returning to a baseline again."

According to the police statistics, the total number of sexual offences, which includes sexual assaults and other sex crimes, was up from 253 in 2019 to 264 in 2020.

The Regina Sexual Assault Centre works often with people who never report the assault, according to Miller.

The organization has been working with the Regina Police Service to determine what obstacles exist for people to reporting sexual assault.

Regina police Chief Evan Bray says working with community partners might help people feel more comfortable coming forward.

"We bring in people that work in the sexual assault field who will help people that are survivors of that crime, and will look at our investigations and provide input and advice to us," said Bray.

COVID-19 and sexual violence

While the high number of reported sexual assaults may suggest more people feel confident reporting these crimes, the COVID-19 pandemic might make others feel more vulnerable.

"Predominantly women are making choices about whether it feels safer to stay in an abusive home or to go to a shelter where you're living communally with other people," said Miller.

"We know that this increased risk for people considerably."

The Regina Sexual Assault Centre offers help for people who have experienced sexual violence, including a 24-hour crisis line (306-352-0434), advocacy, and advice for people who are concerned or uncertain about reporting.