File photo of school desks courtesy of Alvimann via morgueFileFile photo of school desks courtesy of Alvimann via morgueFile

Optimism continues with youth diversion program

Provincial police are optimistic about a youth diversion program after an abuse coordinator was designated to work with Sarnia-Lambton Rebound for Project 1-in-3.

Lambton OPP secured funding through the Community Safety and Policing Grant in November 2022 to have a designated abuse coordinator assigned to Project 1-in-3, which was launched by Sarnia-Lambton Rebound in early 2021.

Cst. Jamie Bydeley said the youth diversion program is for those between the ages of 12 and 17 who have committed a first-time low-threshold sexual crime.

"Rather than sending these individuals through the court processes and adding charges to them, they'll undergo an eight-week program through the Sarnia-Lambton Rebound, which includes topics such as consent education, survivor empathy, digital awareness, and safe choices and boundaries," said Bydeley. "The grant also allows for a consent education class to be presented in our local high schools."

Examples of low-threshold sexual crimes include, but are not limited to, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, non-consensual distribution of intimate images, harassment, and sexual assault without penetration.

"Supporting victims is a big part of this as well so victims receive ongoing support through the Sexual Assault Survivors Centre for as long as is needed to make it through trauma that they've experienced," Bydeley said.

"It helps to educate where maybe they (youth) didn't consider the consequences, maybe they didn't consider how this affects other people."

Sarnia-Lambton Rebound Project 1-in-3 Coordinator Ron Smith said since the project launched, four youths have been involved in the diversion program.

Smith said Rebound can accept referrals from Sarnia Police and Lambton OPP and then get in contact with specific youth members to set up intakes. However, they also work alongside the Sarnia-Lambton Sexual Assault Survivors Centre.

Smith said a large part of Project 1-in-3 focuses on education. Information sessions about consent, abuse, violence, and trauma, are presented at high schools, Lambton College, and to hockey players.

"I'm always blown away when I go into schools and give this presentation about how little people actually know about consent, so it's much needed in our community," said Smith.

Smith said the program has been running very well so far while Bydeley said he's optimistic about this program continuing in the community.

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