Ottawa police want to improve the way they respond to crimes of violence against women. They are asking survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault to take part in an on-line survey to help make that happen. It seems now more than ever we are focusing on issues around women's safety.  Ottawa's police chief Charles Bordeleau says this is a priority for him but says he can't move forward without knowing where to go. Survivors of sexual assault, like Megan Paterson, are helping to guide him.  Paterson is a survivor in the truest sense of the word.  11 years ago, on June 1st, 2003, she was held hostage by an ex-boyfriend, repeatedly sexually assaulted, then shot  before he turned the gun on himself, just as police were ready to bust in.

‘I had been shot in the head and shoulder,’ she says as she recalls that horrifying night, ‘and there's no way I should have lived.’

Asked how she feels about how the Ottawa police handled her case and she says this.

‘I wouldn't be alive if it weren’t for the Ottawa Police,’ she says, as she holds back the tears, ‘They were there when I needed them and the only reason I survived.’

Ottawa Police handle approximately one thousand sexual assault calls a year along with 45-hundred cases of domestic violence.  Not all women speak as highly as Paterson about how the police handled their case. Now, police are hoping through an on-line survey of survivors, they can learn how to do better.

‘We have made to improvements in the past,’ says Acting Superintendent Joan McKenna says, ‘and we want to continue to improve how we respond to violence against women and if we can prevent one partner assault by educating someone, by having someone step up and intervene, that's the whole goal of this program.’

The survey is aimed at women 18 years of age and older, who have experienced violence and had contact with the Ottawa Police as a result of this violent experience.  You can access it on-line at

The survey is focusing only on women because the vast majority of victims of domestic violence, 80%, are women.  The same goes for victims of sexual assault where women account for approximately 87% of the cases.

The Police have teamed up with Ottawa criminologist Holly Johnson to analyze the results. Several women's organizations are on board as well as part of a three-staged approach involving prevention, research and response.

‘I think it's great that police are doing this,’ says Bailey Reid with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.  Reid co-chairs the Community Police Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women with Superintendent McKenna.

‘It's a huge step in ending violence against women and allowing women to report in a safer space.’

Megan Paterson agrees and hopes other survivors will take time to fill out survey and let their voices be heard.

‘If women don't share their feedback,’ she says, ‘then the Ottawa Police can't improve and they can't get better.’

The Community Police Advisory Committee is hoping to have at least 200 respondents reply to the survey. The deadline for participation is January 31, 2015.