#MeToo in Canada: Stats show sharp rise in sexual assaults reported to police

The #MeToo movement appears to have sparked an immediate surge in sexual assaults reported to police across much of Canada with notable increases in Quebec and among teen girls.

Statistics Canada released a nation-wide snapshot of police-reported sexual assaults Thursday based on 2016 and 2017 crime records. The data focuses on reports made to police, then classified by police as a founded criminal offence.

October 2017 was a standout month as the #MeToo movement exploded amid allegations brought forward against prominent figures such as Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein. Canada-wide, the number of sexual assaults reported to police peaked at nearly 2,500 in October.

How big of an outlier was October? There were 29 per cent more reported victims of sexual assault in October 2017 than in September, and 46 per cent more victims than in October 2016. Interestingly, police typically see a boost in reports of sexual assaults in summer, making the October surge even more notable.

November followed with just over 2,300 reports. Both October and November 2017 were higher than any other month since comparable data became available in 2009.

The increases don’t necessarily point to an increase in sexual assaults — just the number of assaults reported to police. Statistics Canada says 9 in 10 victims were female, both before and after #MeToo.

In the three months that followed #MeToo going viral, there was a 25 per cent rise in victims of police-reported sexual assault, compared with an average three-month period leading up to #MeToo (January 2016 to September 2017). The average number of police-reported sexual assault victims rose from 59 per day to 74 per day.

Changes vary based on age and geography. Young women and girls under 25 made up roughly half of the victims before and after #MeToo. However, teen girls aged 15 to 17 saw the largest increase in police-reported sexual assaults. Before #MeTo, their rate was an average of 145.3 per 100,000, but it rose 32 per cent to 191.5 in the months after #MeToo.

Though sexual assaults on school, college or university grounds make up only 5 per cent of incidents that get to police, reports rose post-#MeToo. Comparing October to December 2016 to the same time period in 2017, researchers saw a 59 per cent rise, making it one of the top types to see an increase.

The amount of male victims reporting sexual assaults to police, though smaller than the amount of female victims, also saw an increase: 723 following #MeToo, a 25 per cent rise from 578 in the average quarter before the movement took off.

Provincially, Quebec saw the biggest surge at 61 per cent: the pre-#MeToo average quarterly rate was 12.4 per 100,000. Between October and December 2017, the rate rose to 20. The province saw a number of accusations of high-profile members of the entertainment industry including harassment and assault allegations against Gilbert Rozon, president and founder of the Just for Laughs comedy festival. In October, the Montreal Police Service kickstarted a hotline for reporting sexual assaults and other Quebec police forces also urged victims to come forward in the wake of the #MeToo media storm. A number of Quebec cities saw dramatic surges in report rates: the census metropolitan area of Quebec City saw a 78 per cent jump while Sherbrooke recorded a 76 per cent increase.

After Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador recorded a 36 per cent increase, followed by Manitoba (27 per cent) and Ontario (19 per cent). However, Yukon and the Northwest Territories saw the number of reports drop.

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