Sexual assaults remains one of most underreported crimes (Adam Cotter, Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, Statistics Canada, 2019). But there are indications that rates of reporting of sexual violence did increase following the viral moment.
On a national level, Statistics Canada noted a 13 per cent increase in police-reported cases of sexual assault between 2016 and 2017. It linked the increase in reports to both the #MeToo Movement and to the Globe & Mail’s Unfounded investigation. Published in February 2017, the investigation revealed that police dismiss 1 in 5 claims of sexual assault as baseless. Since its publication, police services across Canada have begun to implement reforms, and unfounded rates have dropped.
There were also regional indications of increased reporting. Montreal police services noted a 22.9% increase in sexual assault reports in 2017, and a hotline for reporting sexual assault received upwards of 460 calls between October 19 and November 6, 2017. Police said the spike in reports and calls could be correlated to the emergence of new high-profile cases.
Calgary Police Service noted the need for more detectives due to increased caseloads in its sex crimes and child abuse units. The CPS noted that the number of sex crimes investigated increased from 296 in 2016 to 391 in 2017, recognizing that the 32 per cent increase could be linked to #MeToo and Time’s Up.
In Winnipeg, police services reported a 36% increase in sexual assault reports in 2017 compared to the previous year, and saw a 142% increase from October to December 2017, as compared to the previous year.
Across the country, centres have reported a greater demand for support services. The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre says they were flooded with calls, and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto reported an 83% increase in requests for sexual assault counselling in 2017.
The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton reported wait times of 9 or 10 months, up from their usual 6-month waiting period, and attributed increased demand to the #MeToo Movement and changing conversations around sexual assault.
Crisis centres in Halifax and across Atlantic Canada
reported an increase in first-time callers in 2017. They noticed that people were not waiting as long after experiencing assault to seek help.
The Quebec Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres reported that, between October 16 and 26, 2017, they saw the volume of requests for assistance triple.
However, most programs did not have increased funding to meet the increased demand. “This is a definite shift in culture where survivors are feeling safer to come forward and we need to be able to respond,” Deb Tomlinson, CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, told Huffington Post Canada. “We are not responding the way we need to right now.”
In Saskatchewan, the Battlefords and Area Sexual Assault Centre (one of the only crisis centres for residents of northern Saskatchewan) was forced to shut down their 24-hour hotline due to a lack of funding in June 2018.
On International Women’s Day 2018, Vancouver’s Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre submitted a petition to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia that called for the restoration of $1.7 million in core funding for women-serving organizations, which was cut in 2004.
In response to calls for increased government funding, the Alberta government designated $8.1 million in funding to the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.