Arthur News School of Fish
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Arthur Newspaper × Trent Community Research Centre: Shifting from a Forensic Perspective

Written by
Lori Branch
March 3, 2020
Arthur Newspaper × Trent Community Research Centre: Shifting from a Forensic Perspective
Logo for the Trent University Community Research Centre.

Since the first newspaper publication of this research, the question has shifted from a forensic science perspective, and will now place a larger focus on the sexual assault prevention needs of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Since forensic sciences tend to take a very reactive approach to solving crimes, it was becoming increasingly clear that there wasn’t much of a role for forensics to play in crime prevention. This is why I have instead decided to research whether or not there are any notable differences in the sexual assault prevention needs of the queer community and the straight-cisgendered community in Peterborough-Nogojiwanong.

Reliable sexual assault statistics are difficult to come by for various reasons, including the fact that very few assaults are ever reported in the first place. This is what criminologists refer to as the dark figure of crime; crimes that are not accounted for because they are either never discovered, are not reported by victims or witnesses, or are never recorded by law enforcement. This gap in data raises questions about the reliability of crime statistics. Many survivors of sexual assault are reluctant to ever report their assaults. This is due to a number of reasons, including a reluctance to relive their trauma by reporting, fear of not being believed, and fear of being placed in danger by their assailant for reporting. We must therefore question whether a region’s heightened sexual assault crime statistics indicate a rise in actual assaults, or rather a rise in reporting, because of the uncertain nature of this data.

There is also a lack in Canadian literature on this topic, and many of the current studies on queer communities and sexual assaults originate from the United States. This means that there is very little information regarding the sexual assault prevention needs specific to the queer community in Peterborough-Nogojiwanong. This lack in available information warrants research that will identify the gaps in knowledge, and will hopefully lead to future, more thorough studies.

Pinpointing the exact needs of the queer community will not be a simple task and may not even be a reasonable objective. Queer people, like everyone else, are varied, complex, and unique individuals. There is no single way that queer people experience crime, just like there is no single way to prevent crimes from happening to all queer people. We must also consider the role that intersectionality plays when evaluating communities at higher risks of sexual assaults. Queer people have varying ages, ethnicities, incomes, disabilities, religions, etc, all of which can potentially lead to minority stress and possess different sexual assault prevention needs. Variables like minority stress may place a person at a higher risk of experiencing sexual assaults, but it isn’t only queer people who experience minority stress. Unfortunately, it is outside the scope of this project to account for all of these factors. We must also consider that the term “queer” is used as an umbrella term that encompasses both sexual orientations and gender identities, which are fundamentally different from one another. These two groups may face different risks and possess different needs when we consider crime prevention. Because of these reasons, the answer to this research question will be complex and will not be a universal solution.

Addressing sexual assault prevention needs is necessary to deal with current issues, but only acts as a band-aid solution to a much larger problem. Prevention initiatives will not eradicate all sexual assaults, as this would require a complete reform of the systems that we inhabit. Sexual assault prevention initiatives are still important however, in order to promote healthy relationships and to help the public properly understand consent. Queer-focused prevention initiatives would hopefully address any needs that are not being met by prevention initiatives that are more focused towards the heterosexual-cisgendered community.

Arthur News School of Fish
Arthur News School of Fish

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