Dismissed cases raise questions

BY JOY STRUTHERS

Over 10,000 Canadian dismissed cases of sexual assault are now being investigated due to the shocking piece published by the Globe and Mail.

The good news is that journalists have been able to make a real difference. Exposing flaws in the system has made people re-evaluate the investigative process performed by police.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called on all police agencies to re-examine their cases and look closely at their procedures. There have been some holdouts, but most are taking action.

These dismissed cases need to be looked into – absolutely, but what does that mean? What does that guarantee? Will there be any results?

According to the Globe and Mail, the average rate of reported cases dismissed as unfounded is one in five. Some cities have a higher number of dismissed cases than others.

Obviously investigators felt that a crime didn’t occur. Will these cases be re-evaluated by the same officers?

What will happen when the police realize that a crime actually occurred?

How will they proceed? The problem in part will be how the police look at past cases and also what they do moving forward. It is uncertain if there will be any consistent policies throughout all police forces.

Will it be too late in these cases to gather more evidence? If cases are deemed unfounded, that might mean that there is little or no proof left.

Will women be re-traumatized? If it wasn’t hard enough to live through sexual assault and not be believed by law enforcement, to relive the experience could be devastating.

It would also be difficult to trust the very people who didn’t take them seriously the first time. Having a special team or properly trained individuals to deal with opening these cases would be beneficial to everyone.

Extra officers, training, counsellors and possibly teams of people are going to cost money. Will funding be available? The police forces need to think a few steps ahead and figure out how they are going to do this.

Will it be a priority for them? Different places have different priorities and tasks they are responsible for. Looking into past sexual assault cases could take time, especially if they have to open full investigations. When will they do this? Over what period of time?

The facts about dismissed sexual assault cases raise a lot of questions about how we can change what happens to women who are assaulted, how they are treated by police if they come forward and how their cases are investigated.

The victims’ perceptions may never be changed. Their cases might never be reopened, and charges might not ever be filed against perpetrators.

A number of women who are discouraged with the system are already not coming forward. This number might become greater.

It is good that these cases are being looked at, but no one is saying what will actually be done about them.

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