Sexual assault support centres want Albertans to reach out with a new hashtag — #SupportSurvivorsAB — in an effort to convince the province to provide more funding to tackle the demand from children and adults who need help.
The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services says the demand for services has spiked since the massive culture shift linked to the global #MeToo movement and Alberta’s own #IBelieveYou campaign. More is needed from the province to decrease counselling wait times, address the increasingly complex needs of survivors, help them access justice, and provide school-based and community-based prevention programs to keep communities safe.
Patricia Arango, executive director of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, said more survivors come forward every time there are news reports on allegations connected to Hockey Canada, or gymnastics, or churches.
“We need the support from the government to be able to keep working and continue doing what we’re doing to support the victims,” Arango said.
She said the centre’s crisis line receives an average of 20o calls a month. An average of 40 kids reach out each month and more are dealing with sexualized behaviour. The centre is focused on intervention to help those kids and prevention.
Seven months ago the association provided the government with research, data and a business case for enhanced and ongoing resources to increase specialized support and prevention services.
Arango said so far her centre has been able to manage the wait list and prioritizes kids, Indigenous people and victims coming directly from hospital. But without more funding, she may have to eliminate some programs.
“It’s not easy to make that kind of decision when the people and the community are in need of the service,” Arango said.
Spokesperson Lisa Shankaruk, with Alberta Community and Social Services, said the association’s proposal will be reviewed in the coming months.
“Sexual Assault Centres provide critical supports to victims impacted emotionally, mentally, and physically from sexual violence. Alberta’s government is committed to combating sexual violence and ensuring proper care is available to victims,” Shankaruk said in a statement.
She said following the 2020 budget, budgets for sexual assault centres were increased over three years, bringing the ministry’s sexual violence prevention funding to $13.8 million in 2022/23. Overall, the government provides over $17 million across four ministries.
Deb Tomlinson, CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, encouraged Albertans to reach out to their MLAs to make sexual violence prevention and the health of communities a priority. Information is available at aasas.ca/campaigns/support-survivors.
“On behalf of all survivors across Alberta - who are your friends, coworkers and family members – I ask you to contact your provincial government representative and let them know that they deserve recovery and healing services, they deserve justice, they deserve to be heard and supported,” said Tomlinson in a statement.