TOBA Centre creates greater space for child abuse investigations

Released: November 30, 2023 at 10:10 a.m.

Child Abuse investigations need space.

Not just physical space. Space for the survivor to share their story. Space for investigators and partner agencies to come together in support of the victim.

Space, so healing can begin. 

TOBA Centre provides such a space. It truly is a breath of fresh air for all involved in support of the far too many victims of child abuse in Manitoba.

Their new location opened this fall in a space in Assiniboine Park donated by the City of Winnipeg.

On November 1st, the Winnipeg Police Service Child Abuse Unit became the first police partner to move in. Serving alongside community partners in medical services, child protective services, forensic interviewers and support staff results in a collaborative and compassionate approach to investigating crimes against children.

Members of the RCMP, Brandon Police and First Nations Police will soon join them. It will be a hub for the more than 3,000 reported cases of child abuse occurring in Manitoba each year, replacing a much more modest downtown space.

Before the opening of the Toba Centre, they were lucky to get three interviews done in a day, simply due to space, they can now get most survivors in on the same day or the next while still offering comfort, dignity, care and support.

"People want to know their matter is being taken seriously and acted upon, and now we can show them that," one of the long-time team members said.  

It is no small undertaking.

Each day starts with a review of the new cases, with the multidisciplinary team collaborating on how to help these survivors and prosecute these offenders. 

It's a holistic approach that truly reflects the Child Abuse Unit's desire not simply to arrest and charge the offenders in these heinous crimes. The new space gives survivors a better chance for recovery and support, a goal they hope to hit home with every case.

Soft interview rooms, space for the family members to gather, and space for inter-agency collaboration are cornerstones of the initiative, making this messy business more humane. 

For example, children now have a safe place to provide testimony of their assault just once in a child-friendly environment, rather than repeating it over and over to various agencies or in the sterility of a police station.

Space is also in place for forensic examinations to occur when members of Shared Health staff come on board, eliminating the need to attend the hospital. There are showers for survivors, family rooms, and a smudging room among the amenities.

A classroom for training and a healing garden are also part of the upgrades.

If you're looking through the WPS media releases wondering why you haven't read anything about child abuse charges and incidents. You never will. The work here is done quietly and always with the survivor in mind. There is no need to revictimize anyone.

This is also why there is no name mentioned in this story. It reflects the team philosophy the Child Abuse Unit holds in high esteem.

Arrests and convictions have been the traditional barometer for the work done by investigators, but that metric is changing.

"Arrests and convictions? Sure, but what we really need to do is set these victims up for a proper chance to heal. If we can change that, we can have a larger impact."

Toba Centre strives to ensure that every victim of child abuse and every child witness to violence is heard, helped, and healed. This project truly is about restoring the health and well-being of those affected by child abuse through a coordinated, community response at the core of everything they do.

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