Over 150 police officers and community partners gathered in Sudbury to talk about the issue of sexual assault at an awareness and education conference Tuesday, March 26.

Dr. Jim Hopper teaches psychology at Harvard Medical School and was invited to the ‘Breaking the Silence’ conference as a guest speaker.

He shared valuable insight into the effects that traumatic experiences, like sexual assault, have on the brain.

“Sometimes people go into really extreme survival reflexes. People can actually be paralyzed, and unable to move, people can pass out from fear, not necessarily from alcohol. People can disconnect from their body and all they are noticing is a spot on the ceiling or a spot on the wall, and from that point on, they are not able to tell investigators or anybody what  was  being done to their body because they basically checked out.” said Hopper. 

Another guest speaker, Jacqueline Villeneuve, is a Sudbury woman who is a sexual assault survivor that founded an international survivor-led organization called ‘She Matters.’

“We need support and sensitivity in handling our case. Everything from language to understanding that as a medical professional and police, you have to continually ask for consent throughout the reporting process and make us feel like our voices are heard.” said Villeneuve.

At the conference, Greater Sudbury Police Service launched a new way to report sexual assault, online.

"We know that first call to police is so difficult, so we are really trying to bring awareness and support for victims and survivors. We anticipate that this may be another avenue to facilitate this." said GSPS detective sergeant Angie Sirkka.

Nicole St. Jean, of Sudbury and Area Victim Services, says the online reporting method will make a difference in this digital age.

“Iknow a lot of our clientele are youth. Sometimes it's difficult to pick up the phone and talk to somebody, just due to the texting age we are in.” said St. Jean.

Police say the sexual assault online reporting option is a survivor-based approach and will help minimize the number of times they have to tell their story.

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