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EDITORIAL: More is sometimes better

It’s hard to find positives in a report that says more people on P.E.I. are reporting sexual assaults.

But in fact, that is a positive — that more Islanders are finding the courage to tell police about being sexually assaulted.

A report recently released by Statistics Canada shows that the majority of sexual assaults on P.E.I. reported to police were so-called level 1. This category, which involves incidents not using a weapon or resulting in physical injury, increased from 69 in 2017 to 107 in 2018. Even more heart wrenching is the increase in reported sexual assaults involving children — from 28 to 33 over that same time span.

The increase in reported criminal incidents to police isn’t limited to sexual assaults. In fact, the overall number of reported offences on P.E.I. from 2017-2018 increased by 1,129. In areas like Criminal Code traffic violations, including impaired driving, reported incidents increased by 254.

Islanders are growing more and more fed up with people breaking the law and are taking the time to tell police.

Of course, reporting a sexual assault is altogether different than reporting a suspected drunk driver.

For those of us who haven’t been the victim of a sexual assault, we can only imagine the courage it must take to report an incident to police and the fear that you won’t be believed. If the matter does go to trial, there is another level of courage needed in cases that require the victim to testify in open court in front of family, friends and strangers.

Those factors alone are enough to deter someone from reporting a traumatic and embarrassing sexual assault to police, especially if you have the prior belief that your complaint will amount to nothing.

And, who could blame them?

P.E.I. had the highest percentage of unfounded cases in Canada in 2017 — 26 per cent. Unfounded cases at that time meant that police ultimately determined the incident didn’t happen.

It isn’t a coincidence that the #MeToo and #Timesup movements have led to changes with how police approach unfounded cases.

And the most recent numbers on the Island reflect that. In 2018, there was an increase in the number of people charged from 26 to 36, and the number of unfounded cases has dropped.

Even so, incidents of sexual assault on the Island are tragic and far too frequent, especially those involving children.

But speaking out and raising awareness is a step in the right direction. Victims are feeling empowered to stand up to their assailants and tell police what happened.

It puts public pressure on police to treat reports seriously, and in doing so, is leading to more victims finding justice.

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