The Sexual Assault Investigation Team (SAIT) investigates adult and child sexual assaults and child physical abuse in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The team is composed of two Sergeants and eleven investigators who are all trained, qualified specialists in this field. They are often asked to conduct investigations on behalf of police agencies outside of Halifax who require their expertise.
SAIT was formed in 2003 when Halifax Regional Police and RCMP became integrated, and is a unit within the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division. In recent years, the team has focused on training, education and strengthening relationships with partner agencies to improve the overall response to sexual assault investigations.
In 2014, SAIT and HRP Victim Services created ground-breaking training for patrol officers, who are often the first to respond to sexual assault calls. The training session, titled ‘Trauma Informed Response to Sexualized Violence,’ encourages officers to look at the issue of sexualized violence holistically to ensure they’re not causing more harm. It aims to diminish ‘victim precipitation’– the belief that the victim contributed to their own victimization. It also works toward reducing ‘secondary wounding/victimization’ – trauma that occurs after the sexual assault as a result of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Patrol officers who complete the two-day training session are then designated to respond to sexual assault calls, where they use their training and employ a victim-centred approach.
“The goal of our training is to provide a better response to victims of sexualized violence. Through better training, we hope to lessen the psychological impact of the investigative process,” says Sgt. Stephanie Carlisle of SAIT.
SAIT investigators are active members of the Halifax Sexual Assault Response Team (HSART), comprised of several agencies including Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, Capital Health, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Public Prosecution Services and the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. As part of HSART, SAIT is able to better understand the role and capabilities of each agency involved, which in turn helps to ensure that victims receive adequate levels of support.
"As investigators, we appreciate the difficulties involved for victims of sexual assault to come forward, however, a big part of our role is to support victims," says Sgt. Sarah Drummond of SAIT. "We do this by ensuring they have immediate access to appropriate supports and services and the information they need to make informed decisions to navigate the judicial system.”
SAIT is also a member of the Child Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) Steering Committee. The goal of this committee is to open a stand-alone centre where child victims of crime can come for all services (medical, police, community services, counselling, etc.). Work to get a stand-alone facility continues and SAIT will provide a police perspective as the project moves forward.
Throughout the year, SAIT investigators attend national and international conferences on child abuse and sexual assault investigations. They also visit high schools and post-secondary education organizations to give presentations on the role of SAIT. They also work with various universities in Halifax to better assist in their response to sexualized violence on campus.
The two Sergeants who lead the Sexual Assault Investigation Team (SAIT) of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division.