October 2020

Another Pathway: Anonymous Reporting

Earlier this summer, a Winnipeg-based Instagram account was created to amplify the stories of survivors of sexual violence. The accounts following grew rapidly and within days, hundreds of people had shared their experience of sexual violence, posted to the account anonymously. Many of the submissions were about incidents that had occurred many months or years earlier. Many stated this was the first time they told their story.

This anonymous Instagram account was not unique to Winnipeg – across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries, similar accounts have been created with thousands of stories anonymously shared about sexual violence on campuses. Even before the #MeToo movement, survivors have turned to the internet to talk about the prevalence and impact of sexual violence. They have shared their reluctance to report through existing reporting pathways, with the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported as one example that has connected millions of people across the world sharing their rage, grief, and solidarity.

From a survivor-centered perspective, there are many reasons someone may be reluctant to report an incident of sexual violence. Sexual violence is traumatic and retelling an experience can be emotionally painful. Survivors may experience shame, fear of retaliation, or fear of not being believed. They may have concerns about how reporting processes might affect their academic careers, mental health or safety, particularly if confidentiality is not maintained. When survivors feel the emotional, psychological, or physical safety risks of making a formal complaint outweigh the benefits, without the option of anonymous reporting, the incident will likely remain unreported.

The current movement of survivors anonymously telling their stories online makes clear that survivors are looking for new pathways to share their stories and be heard in a way that feels safe for them. REES Anonymous Report provides an option for campus community members that in many cases did not previously exist.

When considering whether to make an Anonymous Report, there are a few things to know:

Anonymous Reports maintain your privacy
Your post-secondary institution will not see your individual report. Anonymous Reports do not include any identifying details such as your name, the perpetrator’s name, or any details provided in text boxes of the Record. 

There is no time limit to send an Anonymous Report
Anonymous Reports are not limited to incidents of sexual violence that occurred after the launch of REES at your post-secondary institution. Anonymous Reports may be submitted about historical incidents of campus-related sexual violence, for example from previous months or years. 

Anonymous Reports create new options for survivors without limiting other choices

If you keep a Record stored in REES, it remains available to you should you later choose another reporting option such as Connect to My Campus. You can choose multiple reporting options with one Record, and do not have to decide at the time you create the Record. 

From sharing anonymously on Instagram to filing a police report, disclosing or reporting sexual violence is a personal decision – only you can decide what choice to make and should consider what your needs are to move forward and heal. For those who do not feel safe making a formal complaint, Anonymous Reports creates the opportunity to share information without having to be identified by your post-secondary institution. You can anonymously disclose your experience to inform campus prevention, education and responses to sexual violence.

black and white photo of hands typing on a laptop keyboard
When survivors feel the emotional, psychological, or physical safety risks of making a formal complaint outweigh the benefits, without the option of anonymous reporting, the incident will likely remain unreported. The current movement of survivors anonymously telling their stories online makes clear that survivors are looking for new pathways to share their stories and be heard in a way that feels safe for them.