By Tim Kalinowski on December 19, 2017.
Southeastern Alberta Sexual Response Committee executive director Christina Johnson says her organization is having trouble keeping up with the demand for counselling services for local victims of sexual assault and violence.
There is currently a nine-month wait list for services like counselling and sessional therapy, and SARC has had to shift funding from outreach and education programs in schools and communities to try to cover this dramatic increase in clinical demand.
“We have had a substantial increase in service requests over the past three years,” she confirms. “This year, at a six-month point, we have already served what we served all the way through for the past two years.”
Johnson says the main reason why there has been a skyrocketing increase in demand is because of the effectiveness of awareness campaigns around sexual assault and sexual violence like the provincial government’s “I Believe You” campaign and the broader #MeToo movement, which has exposed sexual assault in Hollywood, broadcasting, corporate and political circles all across North America in 2017. Johnson stresses this increase in demand is not because of any statistical increase in sexual violence and abuse in local communities — more victims are simply finding the courage to come forward after years of silence.
“Those campaigns have had a huge impact,” she says. “Between the ‘I Believe You’ campaign and the #MeToo campaign, and the high profile court cases and disclosures, we have seen a remarkable increase in requests for service. We are more than stretched.”
Johnson says SARC is not alone in facing these financial strains as demand for these types of clinical services are on the rise all across the province.
“Across the province there is a 53 per cent increase of service requests,” Johnson states. “People are coming forward and they are asking for help. We are working with the provincial and local governments to come up with some kind of solution to this funding need.
“Can you imagine reaching out to your local, sexual assault centre, telling your story, only to be told you have to wait nine months before you can get the therapy you need? That is unacceptable.”
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