Sexual assault centre seeing increase from Me Too movement
By Jenn Watt
Published Feb. 6, 2018
Demand for services at the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre has gone up in recent months with the Me Too movement, which has shone a bright light on sexual assault and harassment through several high profile cases in the national and international media.
KSAC executive director Sonya Vellenga said staff have been strategizing on how best to serve those looking for advice on abuse that has happened to them, after seeing others come forward in the media.
“As staff we’ve had to come together and talk out how are we handling these calls?” said Vellenga in an interview with the paper last week.
KSAC is based in Peterborough, but serves Haliburton County, City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland and the Peterborough areas.
“The increase hasn’t given us extra staffing dollars … the question we’re really asking ourselves [is] … how do we support people,” she said.
KSAC is funded primarily by the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Public Health Agency of Canada along with donations. Last year’s budget was less than $500,000. KSAC has between five and seven staff most of the time and about 40 volunteers.
Over the last couple of weeks, conversation in Ontario has intensified around the topic of sexual misconduct following allegations against then PC leader Patrick Brown, who resigned following a story on CTV about the accusations. Brown has denied the allegations and has remained an MPP.
When cases like these come up, Vellenga said it can trigger those who have experienced sexual assault, harassment or abuse to seek advice or counselling.
“It’s hard to really say this is what you should do because every situation is different and unique to that individual,” she said. While some people want to report the incident to the police or pursue criminal charges, others are looking for solutions through the workplace, civil court or sometimes they only want to go as far as speaking to a counsellor.
Watching stories on the news about assault can bring up old memories for those who have survived assault, harassment and violence in the past.
“It is triggering people and that’s where we’re hearing from people as well,” she said. “[They’ll say,] I thought I was OK and then I read this story.”
Vellenga said the media coverage of the issue has encouraged many to speak out about their own experiences.
“Conversation and talking things out are the only way we can make changes,” she said. “Silence never encourages change.”
Not everyone wants or needs to speak out in a public way, however, and it can be just as valuable to speak to a trusted friend or counsellor.
“You can speak out to a number of people confidentially. We have a crisis support line you’re welcome to call at any time to share your story. Sometimes that’s all people want to do. I just want to share what happened to me and then get on.”
You can call the 24-hour crisis support line at 1-866-298-7778. On weekends, KSAC hosts a private online web chat, for those who would prefer to have the discussion that way: www.kawarthasexualassaultcentre.com.
KSAC is also looking for ways to reach out to the Haliburton community. The centre is hosting a film screening of A Better Man in Peterborough on Feb. 13, but would also be able bring it to Haliburton should a group be interested. Contact Lisa Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.