The already well-established outreach program at Southwest Crisis Services (SWCS) has been expanded to provide support to survivors of sexual assault.
SWCS announced the new sexual assault support service in Swift Current, Nov. 5. The announcement took place during a First Responder to Sexual Assault training session for SWCS staff and representatives from other community and support services.
Rebecca Donnelly, the SWCS outreach manager, said the addition of this service to the outreach program will make it easier for sexual assault survivors to get support.
“The outreach program already is in place to work against family violence in all of southwest,” she noted. “We already have in place one-on-one support counselling as well as group work. So we are already familiar with working with survivors of a type of violence. What we were noticing is we didn’t have specific services for sexual assault. People who had been survivors of sexual assault from our region were having to travel as far as Regina to get those specific services.”
There are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. One in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Saskatchewan has the second highest rate of police reported sexual assault among provinces.
“We knew that we had to do something,” she said. “That’s where we started to provide this training and then this contract came up to provide sexual assault services specific to our region. So we’ll be offering one-on-one support for any survivor of sexual assault or sexual violence of any kind. … We will also have support groups in place. We will be running this under the outreach program that we already have. We travel out to rural communities as well as providing support right here in Swift Current.”
SWCS has received funding from the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General and the Ministry of Corrections and Policing to provide this service in the southwest.
Jeff Dudar, the director of strategic partnerships with the Ministry of Corrections and Policing, mentioned that the funding support to SWCS is provided through the community safety and well-being branch of the ministry. Their interpersonal violence and abuse unit funds around 40 different organizations throughout the province.
“This is to enhance service delivery and to expand those services within the southwest of Saskatchewan,” he said.
He added that sexual assault, like many other serious social challenges, requires a multi-faceted proactive response and the provincial government is thrilled to be working with the SWCS team.
“This works complements the work that Southwest Crisis Services is already doing to take action towards improving support for victims of sexual assault,” he said. “We appreciate the depth of knowledge that they bring to the table when it comes to providing services to survivors of sexual assault, and we also greatly value their expertise on such issues as rural isolation, which can be a major cause of stress in a province like Saskatchewan. As partners, we are beginning to more fully understand the effects of this issue of rural isolation and how to address it effectively.”
Dudar referred to the significance of the SWCS outreach program for men, which provides an avenue for men to receive support in their time of need.
“As men, we're less likely to feel that we can admit when we've been sexually abused or assaulted, and Southwest Crisis Services outreach program provides support for men who experience all forms of violence, including sexual assault, and gives them an outlet to speak about their experiences,” he said. “Ultimately this type of program supports a much-needed cultural shift towards reducing the shame and secrecy surrounding male sexual assault.”
SWCS was able to restart the male outreach program this year as a result of funding support from the Community Initiatives Fund. It made it possible to hire a part-time male outreach worker to facilitate group sessions, which includes anger management and violence prevention education, as well as relationship tools, skills development and stress management. The program provides one-on-one support counselling to those attending the group sessions or any other male who needs individual support.
The addition of the new sexual assault service to the SWCS outreach program will ensure that assault survivors will receive appropriate emotional support. They will receive help with trauma management and the identification of post-traumatic stress. There will be referrals to other professional services and there will be support to prevent ongoing victimization and to help survivors to understand their rights. The goal of the support is to assist survivors to heal after their trauma.
Sexual assaults are often not reported and Donnelly is hopeful that the availability of the sexual assault service as part of the SWCS outreach program will make a difference to provide assault survivors with support after their trauma.
The provision of First Responder to Sexual Assault training to their community partners is also an important part of the broad effort to make support services more accessible to sexual assault survivors.
“It’s important to have the discussion as a group, but also give this training that can be dispersed through the community,” she said. “It helps to make our job easier hopefully that there’s more people out there who have the tools to know how to deal with disclosure, and that they are aware that there are support services out there.”