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This past fall we launched the opening of Bridges of Kawartha Lakes, a one day walk-in hub for victims of abuse. Bringing together agency representatives in one place at one time allows the woman the opportunity to meet with the services she needs without having to figure out our complex service system network on her own.
It also saves her time and money travelling to many locations and provides immediate support when she is in crisis. To date we have seen 46 women through the Bridges program and hope to open a satellite Bridges in the fall. Contrary to myth, these women, many young teenagers, do not choose this lifestyle. They are most often lured, manipulated, tricked, abused and forced into the sex trade to be trafficked along the corridor from Windsor to Montreal. In one week alone we had four victims of sexual trafficking at the shelter.
After years of advocacy by Violence against Women and Sexual Assault activists, the government has now identified sex trafficking as a priority. Bridges Hub, as well as our shelter, will be safe places for victims as they break free from their perpetrators and begin to re-build their lives. We know from experience that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. Of these criminal cases, Statistics Canada reports only 42 per cent resulted in guilty verdicts.
As a result of media pressure, police services across the country are now conducting historical audits on the unfounded cases. We applaud our local police services as, to our knowledge; few have invited the expertise of VAW and Sexual assault centres to be part of the review process.
The recommendations from this review were presented to the Police Services Board. We have also been asked to help design the interview room which is used for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. While there is still much work to be done in the areas of sex trafficking and how victims of sexual abuse are treated, we are encouraged by the commitment of and the collaboration with our community partners to help make a real difference to victims in our community.