Patricia Arango, executive director of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, says the Third Option Program ensures victims or patients are not alone. (File photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

People who are sexually assaulted in central Alberta will have more time to report crime

Central Albertans who have been sexually assaulted will have more time to heal and delay any decisions about reporting the crime.

Alberta Health Services has expanded its Third Option Program to the central and Edmonton zones.

Through the program, offered by AHS and the RCMP, forensic evidence is collected within seven days of the assault and then stored confidentially for one year, giving people who have been assaulted time to decide if they will report the crime to police.

Previously, individuals who were sexually assaulted had two options: have the evidence collected and call the police in the moment, or not have the collection done.

“Third Option allows our patients time to focus on healing first, while preserving important forensic evidence, should they decide in the future that reporting the assault to police is right for them,” says Chrystal Ference, AHS public health director in the Edmonton zone.

The Third Option Program has been expanded this year to the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

A person who has been sexually assaulted can decide whether to report the crime during the one-year period. If the decision is made to report, police can assist with evidence intact.

“The goal of Third Option is to ensure victims/patients are not alone,” says Patricia Arango, executive director of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

“They have the best possible medical treatment and supports throughout the process and, through time, gain a sense of control.”

“For these individuals, trying to decide to report immediately after an assault has occurred often only enhances that distress. With Third Option reporting, they are able to take the time they may need and decide if reporting is the right choice for them.

“It can be very empowering for survivors to have that choice again.”

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