Canada: Calgary committee continues to review closed sex assault files under Philadelphia Model pilot - - PressFrom - Canada
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CanadaCalgary committee continues to review closed sex assault files under Philadelphia Model pilot

20:37  31 may  2019
20:37  31 may  2019 Source:   calgaryherald.com

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Calgary committee continues to review closed sex assault files under Philadelphia Model pilot © Provided by PostMedia Digital Danielle Aubry of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA) speaks to media as Sunny Marriner of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre looks on at a press conference announcing they will be reviewing case files closed as unfounded or cleared otherwise, on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

A pilot project involving reviews of closed sexual-assault cases has not yet resulted in any reopened investigations, Calgary police say.

A committee reviewing cases of sexual assault that have been closed without charges being laid recently completed its latest assessment of Calgary police cases, looking at 56 files from the first quarter of 2019.

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Staff Sgt. Bruce Walker of the Calgary police sex-crimes unit said the committee members from Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse have now done three reviews under the Philadelphia Model pilot project.

Walker said the project aims to get a different perspective from people who work with survivors of sexual violence.

“It’s a pretty courageous act for them to come forward and even get involved in police investigations,” Walker said.

“We’re trying to look at how best we can provide an environment or a platform where we have a better understanding of the trauma-informed approach to interviewing survivors of sexual violence, and a greater understanding of survivors of sexual violence and trauma and what they go through.”

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As part of the project, members of the review committee go through each investigation and look for any points of concern .

“They will review the file and then they will offer potential recommendations from a point of view of making it more victim-centred and the trauma-informed approach, so that there’s a better understanding of what the survivor may be going through at the time of an interview, or the fact that it could be historical and that they’re finally coming forward and making that courageous decision to report to police,” Walker said.

The sex-crimes unit also has a co-ordinator dedicated to reviewing all sexual offence files, and offering advice and support to officers as they go through their investigations.

“Then, certainly, on the back end is where the Philadelphia Model comes in, where we have members who really deal with survivors of sexual violence day in and day out, and they provide sort of that different scope and lens,” Walker said.

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Danielle Aubry, the chief executive of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, said some of the things committee members look for during the reviews include what followup happened and how quickly it was done, and whether there is anything in the file that appears to show a lack of understanding of trauma or what the complainant might be experiencing.

“All of those types of things that we know have been blocks for people in terms of coming forward because of societal stigma and victim-blaming,” said Aubry.

She added the committee is also providing positive feedback in cases where officers have excelled in their approach.

“We identify personnel that have done good jobs because there is some really good stuff that’s happening,” she said. “You know, members that are quite trauma-informed. That’s one of the areas that I think most of society really needs some information on, is how to recognize what trauma is, how it impacts people and how it impacts memory, that type of thing.

“And so I think that a lot of police services across Canada are starting to focus on that and do some training for their members, and definitely that’s an area that we’ve put forward as well.”

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Aubry said it’s important for the public to see police services taking the step of providing access to their investigations for independent review.

“I think that the criminal justice system has a long way to go up in terms of raising a bar for people, in terms of feeling safe to come forward,” Aubry said. “And this is one of the things that will be helpful for people and will give a positive message for people.”

Walker said the Philadelphia Model pilot project also involves a broader advisory committee, which he expects will meet sometime this summer.

“As we move forward, the advisory committee may be responsible for providing recommendations in how we proceed, whether that involves more service-wide training, or just recommendations from the experts in the community, as well as the field of sexual violence,” he said.

Prior to the review committee’s re-examination of 56 cases this month, the last review involved 64 cases from August to October 2018.

ycole@postmedia.com

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