New Study Examines Indigenous Women's Experiences Reporting Sexual Assault

Sylvia Maracle, (left), the executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres says her group has received government funding to research the experiences of women when they report a sexual assault to police.  She is joined by Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women's Issues.

Sylvia Maracle, (left), the executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres says her group has received government funding to research the experiences of women when they report a sexual assault to police. She is joined by Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women's Issues. (Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres)

The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres has received over $128,000 from the provincial government to learn more about the experiences of aboriginal women when they report a sexual assault to police.

"Indigenous women, like everyone else, are under-reporting sexual assaults," said the federation's executive director, Sylvia Maracle.

"There are all kinds of reasons that make it a little bit different than perhaps what other women experience."

Some of the reasons Indigenous women may not report when they've been a victim of sexual violence may be due to language barriers, distance from the nearest police station and concern over how they'll be treated if they come forward.

"There are issues, frankly, of racism and discrimination, that police services have not always been seen as a helpful body," she said.

Research conducted by the federation will ask women to share their stories of reporting incidents of sexual violence to police.

Research will also seek information from police

Police services will also be asked a series of questions about everything from the training they receive, to the data they keep and the supports that are made available to women.

"Those are all kinds of questions and experiences that if we have the right answers for, the right approach, then we can build on a system that has a foundation, but I'm afraid sometimes we're going to find none of those, or very few of those kinds of things are in place at all," said Maracle.

The study is set to begin in the next month in Hamilton, and a northern community, which is yet to be selected.

Maracle said at the end of the process, they hope to have a clear picture of what is working and what isn't, and then make recommendations to the government.

This project is one of three receiving a total of approximately $250,000 from the Ontario government as part of its Walking Together strategy to end violence against Indigenous women, which is part of the broader It's Never Okay initiative.

By Cathy Alex, CBC News


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