Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

ENRICHING VICTIMS’ SUPPORT SOURCES – Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee (centre) discuss the planned new Sexualized Assault Response Team during Tuesday’s news conference at the Yukon Government Main Administration Building. Listening are Pauline Frost (left), the minister of Health and Social Services, and Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate. Inset Sarah Murphy

‘Respect and dignity’ will permeate team’s work

The Yukon government plans to launch a Sexualized Assault Response Team (SART) to provide co-ordinated, low-barrier support for victims of sexualized violence.

By Emily Blake on December 6, 2017

The Yukon government plans to launch a Sexualized Assault Response Team (SART) to provide co-ordinated, low-barrier support for victims of sexualized violence.

Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, made the announcement Tuesday morning at the Yukon Government Main Administration Building.

She was joined by Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Pauline Frost, the minister of Health and Social Services.

Dendys said the SART model is a victim-centred approach that aims to co-ordinate services that are already available and address any gaps.

There will also be a new after-hours response line to offer 24/7 support and a co-ordinator who will orient these services.

“The purpose is to improve integration and collaboration between healing, counselling, victims’ supports, medical and police services to ensure victims have wrap-around support no matter where they enter the system,” Dendys explained.

She noted the initiative has been a priority for the government, as there is a high rate of sexualized violence in the territory.

“When victims feel safe, informed and supported, there is a greater chance they will disclose sexualized violence, access the supports needed for recovery and for their own healing journey, and they will take steps to hold the perpetrators accountable, which ultimately is what we want to see in our territory.”

Among the existing resources is the Kits on Ice program, where forensic sexualized assault evidence is stored anonymously while victims decide whether they want to report.

Third-party reporting is also offered through the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society, where victims are able to anonymously report incidents to the RCMP to support future investigations.

To illustrate how the co-ordinated approach will work, Dendys gave the example of a 19-year-old woman contacting the crisis line at 1 a.m., then receiving support from other services.

“She is treated with respect and dignity,” Dendys said.

“She doesn’t have to retell her story to a counsellor or to victims service workers because it has been transferred confidentially.”

“We know that some victims don’t come forward because of lack of knowledge about what’s available,” McPhee said.

“We know that some victims don’t come forward because they don’t trust the services that are there or they don’t understand the full extent or we don’t have good co-ordination between them.

“What we’re hoping is no matter where they decide to enter that process and seek help, that they will have the opportunity to receive all of the assistance they need, they will be believed, it will be a positive experience, there will be coordination between those services,” McPhee added.

The SART is an initiative of the interagency Sexualized Assault Response Committee. That body has advocated for increased co-ordination and an improvement to service models for the last decade. Similar SART models have long been operating in other jurisdictions.

Many local women’s groups providing support for victims of sexualized violence are also applauding the announcement.

Sarah Murphy, the program co-ordinator for Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, said what she likes most about the SART model is that it enables victims to make informed choices.

“I think something that’s a big problem is people don’t know what their options are; they think it’s either say nothing or go to the RCMP, and there’s lots of choices in between,” Murphy told the Star.

“It’s completely OK to not want to go to the criminal justice system, it’s not for everyone, it’s a very difficult process.”

Victims can access a variety of support services whether or not they choose to report, she said. Those include territorial victims’ services staff, counsellors and the women’s advocate.

Murphy also highlighted forms of accountability other than the criminal justice system, like restorative justice, the #MeToo social media movement and the Yukon Human Rights Commission.

“For perpetrators just acknowledging that it happened without making excuses, without blaming the victim can be so huge,” she said.

The government announcement came in the midst of the annual 16 Days to End Gender-Based Violence campaign, which kicked off on Nov. 25.

Events in Whitehorse so far have included a live art installation and film screenings.

A vigil for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women began at noon today in the main administration building. The 14 young women who died in the Montreal Massacre on this day in 1989 were among those remembered. (See coverage of the vigil in Thursday’s Star.)

“Our theme this year was all about action and taking action on gender-based violence and encouraging people that you know we can talk about this forever, but we need to do something,” Murphy said.

Dendys noted, “We wanted to bring this forward today in the 16 Days to End Gender-Based Violence to show our action; we are taking action as a government.”

The SART is expected to begin in Whitehorse by the spring of 2018, with future plans to expand to other Yukon communities.

“We certainly know that the violence that we experience in Whitehorse is certainly being experienced in the small rural communities,” Dendys said. “All communities matter.”

Comments (6)

Up 1 Down 0

real on Dec 12, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Unfortunately too many women are taking advantage of the current "me too" and crying foul in attempt to get back at some men without cause. It is unfortunate that these vindictive persons taking advantage of opportunities will make it more difficult for those true victims who need our help and support.

Up 4 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm

I would like to see a list of definitions for charges to be argued. There is a spectrum of interpretations as to what assault is for example - everything from broken bones to yelling aggressively and waving arms have been used as examples of violence in the past. Let's try and keep this process simple and results oriented rather than another social experiment on how people perceive violence and the behaviour of others.

Up 2 Down 0

My Opinion on Dec 11, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Where is the diversity on that little panel. Don't see any guys on it.

Up 0 Down 0

Josey Wales on Dec 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Hey juniper....thanks, I myself would be fine with gallows or lethal injections for convicted monsters.
Hell I’d even donate my time pulling the lever, not a doctor so I cannot push the plunger.
Question though, seems as though you are mocking long time poster june?
If so try getting creative with your moniker, if not...please carry on

Up 5 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Dec 8, 2017 at 8:28 pm

I totally agree with Josey Wales.. today's political correctness has crossed over into lack of any real justice... poor rapist/beater, get him into counselling. I want to see long term jail.. really long term.. but that's not going to happen.. I also don't see any consequences here for false accusation.. but, I would like to see a false accuser get the same sentence a man gets, i.e. lose your job, your kids, your home, your bank account and a jail term. Men should not get off if guilty..but neither should a woman.

Up 3 Down 0

Josey Wales on Dec 8, 2017 at 8:44 am

Hmmmm, as long as the accused is able to face the third party making the anonymous report in court....it may get my support.
If not, witch hunt, vendettas come to my mind.
Sugar and spice is not always that nice.

Also to a point that is by design not present in these discussions or by ineptness, is actual rape culture.
Not the made up ones, but real ones like has been flooded into both this territory and the country.
Despite the mantra chanted by the elites, PC Crusaders, delusional apologists there is much danger in diluted values....as we see in the news each freaking day.

Ladies consider this place as the headquarters of political correctness, lots of folks stick their head in the sand, posts as this considered invalid criticism, vitriolic trash.....things will only get far worse.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.