If there’s a sexual predator at work out there, officials want to be able to connect the dots.
The phenomenon of reporting of sexual offences — even years after the fact — has exploded in the mass media recently. Alleged incidents involving celebrities like Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi in recent months have prompted several women to come forward.
But what if they could have reported what happened to them anonymously? These stories might have broken earlier.
In fact there is a way for police to become aware of incidents, and to investigate the allegations, when people have been victimized or assaulted, without knowing who the victims are.
In B.C, it’s a program called Third Party Reporting or TPR.
The program is being “relaunched” this year to make sure everyone is aware it, said Beverly Coles of Specialized Victim Services of Chilliwack Community Services.
“It is an option of last resort,” she explained. “It is for anyone who is very sure they do not wish to report a sexual offence to the police, but want the police to be aware.”
Many women who have been sexually assaulted are afraid to call police, or testify in court.
The TPR program is an option that allows people to share information about what happened and get referred to services, while still remaining anonymous. It is geared for both women and men, who are not in imminent danger.
But yet crucial details they may have about assailants and predators who attacked them can really help investigators and profilers.
Police can recognize and evaluate trends, create profiles of serial predators, track information across the province and take action like boosting patrols in specific areas.
Specialized or community-based victim service programs can act as “a bridge” between police and those who would not otherwise report sexual assault to police.
“Whether or not a woman makes a report, Chilliwack Specialized Victim service program support workers will connect her with critical medical, legal and social services in her community, an essential step in the healing process,” said Coles.
TPRs have been used in some communities for about 30 years, and in 2008 B.C. launched a Third Party Reporting Protocol as an option for women (19+) to share information about sexual offences yet remain anonymous, she noted.
Specialized victim service program staff are specially trained to help individuals explore their legal reporting options, which includes opening a TPR file. When they contact such a support worker they are not obliged to report to police.
Chilliwack Specialized Victim Services will assist women in the local area to make these reports.
“Our area includes Chilliwack, Hope, Agassiz, Harrison and Boston Bar.”
Support Workers in Chilliwack can be reached at at 604-793-7211 or 604-793-7235.