Patricia Arango, Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre executive director, says the number of children seeking help is growing. (File photo by Advocate staff)

#MeToo movement doesn’t explain increase in child victims

Red Deer agency looking for answers

While the #MeToo movement encouraged more adults to come forward with sexual assault complaints, the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre is trying to figure out why more children are also looking for help.

Statistic Canada’s report on police-reported sexual assaults in Canada before and after the #MeToo movement showed Alberta’s rate climbed seven per cent.

Nationally, the rate jumped 24 per cent after the #MeToo moment went viral in October 2017. Quebec saw the largest increase in reported sexual assaults at 61 per cent.

“Definitely, we’ve seen some increase, but I am still questioning why we have more kids,” said Patricia Arango, executive director of the centre.

She said #MeToo did increase the number of historical sexual assault cases.

“I believe the campaign has motivated more people to report. The kids coming are not historical. That is my concern, my question. There is something here we’re missing.”

She said for children under 12 who are being molested, 100 per cent of them are being assaulted in their own homes.

“Stranger danger is not working anymore.”

And there are just as many victims who are boys as there are girls, she said.

During July, August and September, the centre had 642 clients and 221, or 34 per cent, were children.

Arango said moving forward, the centre will continue to focus on its education programs, work to keep the conversation going, and remind the community that the centre is here to help.

The Statistics Canada study looked at sexual assaults reported to police that were subsequently deemed to be a criminal offence. It did not include all complaints, and the accusations have not necessarily led to criminal charges.

“This sharp increase in police-reported sexual assaults following the #MeToo movement does not necessarily reflect a rise in the prevalence of sexual assaults in Canada, but is likely attributable to a combination of factors, including an increased willingness of victims to report to police,” the study’s authors wrote.

Other factors include heightened awareness of what constitutes sexual assault, public messages from police forces urging victims to come forward, and changes in police practices when it comes to classifying sexual assaults as founded or unfounded.

With files from The Canadian Press

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