As Family Violence Prevention Month gets underway, Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre reports that calls to its 24-hour Sexual Violence Help Line increased by more than 100 per cent in October.
The helpline, accessible by text, phone and webchat, received 250 calls/messages in September, which was a 52 per cent increase from the same month in 2021. In October, the line received 280 compared to 127 in 2021.
In addition to an increase in calls during the pandemic, the length of calls also grew to an average of 50 to 60 minutes from 25 to 30 minutes before COVID, and some people are reaching out more than once.
Text and webchats can last even longer, spanning several hours.
Executive Director Patricia Arango said demand for the helpline is not expected to slow down, so community support is critical.
“We need more volunteers. We need more money. Your help is important right now,” said Arango about the helpline that relies on fundraising, and recently applied for government funding.
Over 100 community volunteers, who work one shift a month, answer the calls and messages, with the support of trained and trauma-informed staff at the support centre.
She said people across Alberta turn to the centre’s helpline at night and on the weekends when the provincial help line doesn’t operate which has increased the demand on the local helpline and shows just how much it is needed.
Most calls deal with sexual assault, but volunteers also hear from people with mental health concerns, survivors of human trafficking and child abuse.
Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre also wants to people to show their support during Family Violence Prevention Month on Purple Day of Action on Nov. 25.
November marks one year for the centre’s Only Yes Means Yes Consent Campaign. In the last 12 months about 30 Only Yes Means Yes posters were put up in bars, restaurants and community spaces to help change how people understand consent.
Carlia Schwab, manager of education and community relations with the centre, said Only Yes Means Yes is a more preventative approach. Only affirmative consent matters.
“Typically when we hear ‘No Means No’ what we’re saying is I’m always saying yes until I say no, and that’s just not the case with consent. When it comes to consent, my body is always saying no until I indicate a yes,” Schwab said.
In the coming year the centre wants to expand the campaign by creating posters for youth audiences and making them more accessible by including different languages.
For more information on the Family Violence Prevention Month, the helpline, or the online learning series, visit casasc.ca.