UBCO and Elizabeth Fry host panel to discuss structural change for sexual assault survivors

The panel follows backlash against RCMP which deemed 40% of sexual assault cases as “unfounded”

Three community organizations will team up to host a panel discussion about how to change the way Kelowna’s RCMP detachment helps sexual assault survivors.

Spearheaded by the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, UBC Okanagan and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office, the panel will discuss ways to improve accountability and structural change within the local police force.

The panel follows intense backlash against the RCMP last fall, after Kelowna Capital News revealed the RCMP deemed 40 per cent of sexual assault cases as “unfounded” in 2019.

READ MORE: ‘Steeped in rape culture’: Sexual assault survivor speaks out against Kelowna RCMP

“Sexual assault is a big point of discussion in the community and we really wanted to try to put together an event that would provide more of an opportunity for the community to come together and be involved in the discussion,” said Mandy Glinsbockel, Elizabeth Fry’s community engagement coordinator.

Aden Withers, who is one of four panelists and a sexual violence activist and survivor, said she hopes the panel will demonstrate the need for a dedicated sexual assault unit within the local police detachment.

“We as a community need to come together and make demands of the RCMP to better their services and put in place a sexual assault unit,” said Withers.

She added that officers and personnel need to be trained to deal with sexual assault cases because it will keep the RCMP more accountable and provide victims with better care.

READ MORE: Petition calls for sexual assault investigation unit within Kelowna RCMP

“Accountability to me looks like specially trained officers handling sexual assault cases, increasing funding for organizations like Elizabeth Fry for more trauma counselling sessions and a properly trained advocate to be present during all sexual assault cases,” she said.

She also said structural change within the police force also needs to happen.

“We as a community need to work within the RCMP to change the stigma behind sexual assault here in Kelowna. We as survivors often have to face negative stereotypes because our community is quite stuck in a traditional mindset…our RCMP should be at the forefront when it comes to debunking rape myths,” said Withers.

“I want to open the discussion by debunking the stigma behind sexual abuse. One in five individuals is sexually abused and so often, it’s not talked about because of how people view rape or victims of rape.”

The Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society’s executive director Michelle Novakowski said Kelowna is past due for a dedicated sex crimes unit.

“We really need one. That would mean that’s all the officers are dedicated to, to investigate sexual assault reports and take them,” Novakowski said.

“They need trauma-informed training, so they understand why a survivor’s story doesn’t come linear, the way it does when you have a break and enter or something.

“The brain responds to this kind of trauma and it’s not always available to clearly talk about it.”

The panel will be held at UBCO’s student union building Jan. 22, 4:30 p.m.

READ MORE: Speaker series in Kelowna raises funds for trauma counselling

READ MORE: ‘We represent the 40%’: Protesters swarm Kelowna RCMP over unfounded sexual assault reports


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Word on the street: How do you spend a snow day?

When snow cancels school and your boss tells you to stay home,… Continue reading

Sports Shorts

Keep up to date with local sporting events and news segments Curling… Continue reading

Photo reminds Salmon Arm resident of connection to former drama teacher Justin Trudeau

Prime minister remembered as being as a funny, larger-than-life person

Dining moose a welcome distraction at Salmon Arm campus

Pair feast on willows, unperturbed by onlookers at Okanagan College

COLUMN: Choosing a face to show the world

It will not be easy to select the face to display on Canada’s new $5 bill

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

B.C. town spends $14.14 per resident for snow removal in one month

Costs of snow removal to the Town of Princeton skyrocketed in December.… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Most Read