Kelowna panel discusses ways to improve support for sexual assualt survivors

The event was hosted by UBCO and Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry

Four women headed a panel to talk about how the police force can better serve sexual assault survivors, especially those who choose to report it, on Jan. 22.

The panel was headed by the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry and UBCO and included panelists from different sectors of society who were brought together by their advocacy to support sexual assault survivors.

The event was organized after Kelowna Capital News revealed last year that 40 per cent of sexual assault cases were deemed “unfounded” in 2018, which is more than double the provincial average.

Unfounded cases mean police didn’t find evidence that the crime was attempted or that it occurred at all.

READ MORE: Kelowna RCMP completes internal review of sexual assault cases deemed “unfounded’

READ MORE:Kelowna RCMP vow to review ‘unfounded’ sexual assault cases

The focal point of the panel discussion was to answer two main questions:

  • Why are sexual assault cases being deemed unfounded at differential rates compared to other assault cases like physical assault?
  • What are the individual and structural changes that need to happen in the system?

Buffy Mills, one of the panelists, said when the alarmingly high statistic first became public, she felt sick and disgusted.

“I can’t help but feel for the victims who’ve experienced sexual assault. For someone to dismiss them altogether, like they don’t matter,” Mills said.

“They were going to a detachment, talking to a police officer looking for help and they’re dismissed … I have no other words but it makes me sick to my stomach knowing there are women out there … being told they’re irrelevant.”

READ MORE: ‘Steeped in rape culture’: Sexual assault survivor speaks out against Kelowna RCMP

READ MORE: ‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Panelist Elaine Alec said she wasn’t surprised by the numbers, but having to build safe spaces now will be a long road.

“I think what it really breaks down to is being able to show each other vulnerability,” she said.

She added that supporting those who’ve gone through trauma means trying to understand them.

“If you don’t understand trauma and understand what it’s like to go through that, it’s really hard to support people. I don’t think enough people in our society overall understand how to respond when someone discloses … I know that there’s so much training that needs to happen with the RCMP because 40 per cent unfounded is basically saying 40 per cent we don’t believe you.”

The panelists agreed that the most important thing that must happen is to train officers to handle and understand how trauma works, and to ask questions with compassion, especially in sexual violence cases.

The RCMP recently said it has completed its internal review of the high number of sexual assaults that were deemed “unfounded” by police in 2018 and 2019, however, the results will not be made public for several more weeks.

READ MORE: Kelowna fundraiser raises awareness about Sexual Assault Awareness Month

READ MORE: ‘We represent the 40%’: Protesters swarm Kelowna RCMP over unfounded sexual assault reports

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at
Follow me on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BREAKING: Kelowna RCMP to further investigate 12 sexual assault cases, create sexual assault unit

Recommendations come 5 months after it was revealed 40% of sexual assaults were deemed ‘unfounded’

Central Okanagan school board expands whistleblower policy

School employees will now be able to report criminal activity anonymously to an independent third party

Central Okanagan school board cancels trip to Europe over coronavirus fears

Students were supposed to visit Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Italy

Lake Country resident looks back at 50 year career with BC Tree Fruits

Elaine Roseen’s starting wage with the company in 1969 was $1.50

Rockets stay hot with 5-4 win over Cougars

The Rockets collected seven of a possible eight points on their road trip

RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Businesses nominated for excellence awards

Upcoming awards ceremony has 67 nominees in 12 categories

Charges discontinued in 2017 shooting death of Penticton man

The manslaughter charge against Sylvain Demers has been stayed by Crown

Explicit Greta sticker linked to Alberta company draws outrage

The sticker includes the logo of Red Deer-based X-Site Energy Services

Share Now, formerly Car2Go, leaves Canada with valuable data in changing market: expert

Vancouver was its largest market in North America, with more than 300,000 customers

EDITORIAL: Standards of care

The decision to appoint an administrator at Summerland Seniors Village raises important questions

Off-duty RCMP officer helps catch Cache Creek car thief

‘This is just one example of how we are always ready to respond to emergencies’

Most Read