Most RCMP investigations of sexual assault are “thorough, timely and conducted in a trauma-informed manner,” but additional training on consent and rape myths are recommended by the Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committee (SAIRC).
A report outlining the committee’s findings was released Tuesday. In committees held in December 2019 and June 2020, investigators evaluated evidence collection, reports, the subject of complaints, victims themselves, witnesses, case findings and RCMP follow-up actions in seven NWT communities.
The committee generally found that investigators were victim-centred, taking the needs and wishes of those involved into account. However, they made a number of recommendations for improvement.
RCMP personal opinions
The SAIRC advised that including officers’ personal opinions in reports demonstrates a lack of understanding of rape myths and consent law. As such, those opinions should be omitted from reports.
The committee also recommends police explain investigation processes more thoroughly to victims, who should be granted the option to speak with an officer in the gender of their choice.
When working with youth, SAIRC advised that officers consult parents, guardians and social services. Officers should also confer with other RCMP support units that have expertise in conducting interviews with children to ensure best practices are being followed.
Detachment supervisors were apprised of the committee’s findings and recommendations, and general themes were shared with all NT RCMP employees.
The SAIRC emphasized the importance of completing the RCMP’s consent law training, writing professional police reports, being victim-centred, and practicing trauma-informed principles.
The SAIRC report follows a 2017 RCMP action plan on sexual assault called The Way Forward.
The RCMP resolved to develop a training curriculum focused on trauma-informed approaches to investigations and committed to working with the public, non-governmental organizations and within its own ranks to improve policies and ensure appropriate supervisory oversight on sexual assault files.
Jesse Aubin, the NT RCMP’s family violence coordinator, expressed appreciation for the advocates and partners that supported the review.
“We look forward to continually learning and hearing from them,” he said.
The Status of Women Council of the NWT, noted as one of those partners, expresses its support for the review and wants to help improve RCMP responses for people who have experienced sexual violence.
“Our goal is to reduce the potential for re-traumatization during the investigation process and to increase the likelihood that these people will seek further help as part of their healing journey,” the council stated in the report.