'They’re scared': New interview room in North Battleford provides 'safe environment' for sexual assault victims to file police reports
SASKATOON -- Amber Stewart hopes a new interview space will encourage more sexual assault victims to make a police report.
“We’ve had times where clients come here and they’ve been assaulted, but they don’t want to go to the RCMP. They’re scared, embarrassed, experiencing all sorts of emotions,” Stewart, executive director of the Battlefords Sexual Assault Centre (BSAC) said in a news release.
“To have the RCMP come here, and victims knowing they have the support here, will hopefully help people feel safe in sharing their story. Because our office is located in a house, it could seem like you’re simply going inside for coffee,” she said.
BSAC provides free one-on-one counseling to anyone affected by sexual or gender-based violence. They’ve seen an increase in clients this fiscal year, she said.
From January to September 2020, there were 3,711 victims of intimate partner violence reported to the Saskatchewan RCMP. So far, 2,529 of these files resulted in charges.
Insp. Tom Beck, Officer in Charge of North Battleford RCMP, said he commends the centre for coming up with the idea and making it happen.
“They want to connect victims with supports immediately and the new interview space is going to make our job easier by creating an environment that people feel safe to speak with us in. We want to help victims and this is one more tool in our kit to help us be successful with that,” Beck said.
A counselor will be present when the RCMP comes to the centre to use the interview space. The space also includes a welcoming waiting area with books and toys set up for children to use while being supervised by staff or a volunteer.
“It eliminates that barrier for moms – we are here to support you. There are also tools in that space which can assist with child forensic interviews. It’s a warm, safe environment,” Stewart, said.
Stewart hopes other small communities will see how the space works and how it came together easily.
“Maybe this is something we can start building on in Saskatchewan.”