The H.O.P.E. Outreach volunteers are out seven nights a week lending supplies and support to sex trade workers. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

The H.O.P.E. Outreach volunteers are out seven nights a week lending supplies and support to sex trade workers. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Sex assault crimes increasing: Kelowna outreach program logs graphic case

The number of women in sex work has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic

~Warning: This story contains graphic content that discusses sexual violence that may be triggering for some readers.

A report that describes the drugging and rape of a woman in Kelowna is circling social media, despite the fact it was to be an internal message.

The Aug. 1 incident report alleges that a 32-year-old man picked up a woman after communicating over Facebook, drove her outside of the city limits, stuck a needle containing an unknown substance in her arm and buttocks, and, forced her to snort an unknown substance. He then allegedly coerced her to have unprotected anal sex in the back of his van.

The report was filed with the Bad Date Reporting System, through H.O.P.E Outreach. A “Bad Date” is used to describe an episode of violence enacted upon a sex worker, as well as incidents of theft, refusal of payment, threats, rudeness, time-wasting, harassment, and aggressive behaviour.

Angie Lohr, executive director of H.O.P.E., explained that to keep women safe, the Bad Date Reporting System is not always associated with a police report.

In this case, the woman did choose to file a police report and the case is under investigation by the Sex Crimes Unit with the Kelowna RCMP. However, Lohr said that many survivors of assault are not comfortable working with the RCMP, particularly if they are sex workers.

The reports are used to inform sex trade workers, agencies, and local outreach programs about the violence against vulnerable people in their communities. Once a Bad Date is reported, data is logged and the information is summarized and emailed out to local agencies. The alerts are then printed out and posted in common areas of outreach facilities for warnings.

“The purpose and intent of Bad Date Reporting are to gather and circulate valuable information in hopes of increasing the safety of women in our community.”

The need for support of vulnerable women has increased as the prevalence of crime and the rate of sex work increases in the Okanagan.

Lohr said that the number of women in sex work in Kelowna has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic.

“We have seen a huge increase in women that wouldn’t normally go into sex work,” said Lohr. She explained that financial desperation, driven by the pandemic, a high cost of living, a lack of education, and substance use disorders are primary reasons why women turn to sex work to support themselves and their families.

However, in a post-pandemic world, there are fewer ‘street level’ workers, as many women took their business online.

This can be dangerous, explained Lohr, since the meetups are now happening in private, without the supervision of other workers and friends on the street.

Crime, including sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence, is becoming increasingly common in Kelowna, said Lohr.

READ MORE: Record number of sexual assaults reported to police in B.C. in 2021

B.C. saw a 15 per cent jump in the number of sexual assaults reported to police in 2021, resulting in the greatest annual number on record.

The H.O.P.E society and the Elizabeth Fry Society in Kelowna both provide services for all individuals who have experienced assault.

People that are wishing to report can find a fill-able report on the H.O.P.E. outreach website under the Bad Date Reporting tab. Anyone that has experienced a Bad Date is able to fill out this report, including sex workers, trans-women, and volunteers.

READ MORE: The war on drugs in B.C. is a failed effort, says UBCO expert

READ MORE: Sextortion boom coincides with pandemic’s online shift, as experts raise alarm


@Rangers_mom
Jacqueline.Gelineau@kelownacapnews.com

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