Advocates working with sexual assault survivors are praising the new funding from the provincial government to expand services across British Columbia. However, some advocates express concerns that the funding may not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand for services.
The increase in resources for sexual assault centres comes in response to a rise in sexual assaults in major cities in recent years. The government has put out a call for responses to run five regional sexual assault centres in Victoria, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver, and one center in either Kamloops, Vernon, or Kelowna. These centres will offer specialized rooms for forensic medical exams and police interviews, providing a vital option for survivors who may be hesitant to go to hospitals or police stations.
Advocates, such as Dalya Israel, Executive Director of the Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre in Vancouver, have long advocated for integrated sexual assault clinics. The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre is currently the only integrated centre in B.C. equipped with rooms for forensic exams and police interviews. The presence of these facilities has led to a significant increase in survivors seeking emergency crisis support in the community setting.
The new funding will allow centres like the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre to expand and serve as centralized hubs for survivors. This ensures that survivors have direct access to comprehensive care and all available options without being shuffled between different agencies.
However, some advocates are worried that the allocated funding falls short of providing comprehensive services to sexual assault survivors, especially given the surge in gender-based violence during and after the pandemic. The $300,000 provided to each service provider annually may not be sufficient to cover the full range of support services required. In urban centers like Vancouver, where gender-based violence increased during the pandemic, staff at sexual assault centres feel overwhelmed by the rising demand for services.
Despite the welcome funding for sexual assault centres, some advocates, like Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services, believe more resources are needed to address intimate partner violence and provide counselling for survivors of gender-based violence beyond the crisis stage.
The stability of funding is a positive step, but concerns remain regarding the need for further financial support and resources to adequately address the needs of sexual assault survivors throughout their recovery process. The impact of gender-based violence during the pandemic emphasizes the urgency of providing comprehensive, accessible, and well-funded support to survivors.