Alberta is investing $1 million to launch a new made-in-Alberta forensic evidence collection training program so more health-care providers can deliver this essential service to sexual assault survivors in communities across Alberta.
Increased access to evidence collection empowers sexual assault survivors with the option to report crimes committed against them. In rural and remote Alberta, they often need to travel significant distances to get a forensic exam.
The training program will increase the number of health-care providers in rural areas trained in providing sexual assault evidence kits, and will be piloted with a group of health-care providers across rural Alberta.
Grants for health-care providers will ensure they are able to access this training free of charge.
“It’s time to work together to close the gap and make sure all sexual assault survivors in Alberta have access to evidence collection, regardless of where an assault occurs. We need to continue to step up and show up for survivors of sexual assault,” said Associate Minister of Status of Women Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk in a statement.
According to a 2020 Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services Prevalence Study, 43 per cent of the 1,500 Albertans surveyed indicated they had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, which equates to 1.8 million people, or almost one out of every two Albertans.
Deb Tomlinson, CEO with the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, said training rural health-care providers will increase their comfort and skill to perform these procedures.
“At six per cent, sexual violence has the lowest police reporting rate of any crime in Canada and so, when a survivor chooses to reach out for help, it is imperative the care they receive is specialized and trauma informed,” Tomlinson said.
Statistics Canada says the rate of reported sexual assault jumped 21 per cent last year.