Friday, 25 October 2013 08:26

Level of service increasing for victims of sexual violence

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Work continues to improve the resources available to individuals in communities throughout southeast Alberta who have experienced sexual violence.

In 2012, federal funding through the Status of Women Canada in the amount of $292,900 was received in Medicine Hat to start the process to create a common language and understanding of gender-based violence as well as develop and implement a community plan for those affected.
The work is being done by the Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC) and Kind Community Alliance, in collaboration with other partners, to increase the level of service across the southeast region, explains Christina Johnson, SARC’s regional co-ordinator.
The Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC) has been an active committee in Medicine Hat and the region for more than 15 years. It is comprised of more than 20 community agencies who provide services to affected individuals and their families.
“We did a gender-based analysis. What services are like for men and women,” says Johnson about the first year of the project. A literature review was also done to complete the first year which comprised mainly research.
Then confidential surveys were completed earlier this year as well as focus group meetings in Medicine Hat, Brooks, Bow Island and Oyen to gain better insight into the issues of sexual violence, sexual abuse and domestic violence. Being Human Services conducted the survey on behalf of the groups
“We believe in building services that are community specific,” says Johnson. “We wanted to come up with each community’s specific model of service and support that growth and movement in those communities.”
Officials are now helping communities plan the services they want to provide.
“One thing that came up was the need for education,” points out Johnson.
To that end a first responder to sexual assault and abuse course was offered in Brooks and one is scheduled in Oyen Oct. 24-25. This training was free this go-round for any person who may respond to sexual violence such as faith leaders or friends and family.
Another initiative in the City of Brooks is forming a Sexual Assault Response Network (SARN). That would be one place where people can go for help. It is hoped that can be in place next year if an existing organization takes it on.
“We have great resources in every community,” adds Johnson. “We have wonderful service providers who are doing the work but that’s not what they’re named as. We’re trying to streamline service delivery.”
Each community is at its own stage of how to move forward to streamline services for victims of sexual violence, but there can be no doubt there is a need to do so. Surveys showed 71 per cent of respondents said they had experienced or been forced into unwanted sexual acts and 59 per cent of those didn’t seek help. About 34 per cent of those people said they didn’t seek help because they felt too embarrassed.
“It’s about education and awareness,” says Johnson. “The reality is no program out there is going to stop sexual assault or abuse. What you can do is teach people healthy relationships and what is a healthy relationship. If something happens to you, we can say we believe you, it’s not your fault and there are a lot of services here for you.”
Anyone who is looking for assistance can contact SARC by phoning 403-504-8026.
“The services that are available are really strong,” points out Johnson. “It’s about that seamless navigation and allowing communities to respond.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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