A persistent, ongoing increase in demand for specialized sexual assault services spiked in 2017 with a massive culture shift linked to the global #MeToo movement and Alberta’s own #IBelieveYou campaign, and increased yet again due to the pandemic.
The growing number of Albertans asking for help has resulted in wait times for trauma counselling that exceed one year in some parts of the province.
Any wait is unacceptable and can have devastating impacts on survivors.
“Some of the other men I met in group counselling were just barely functioning. You could just see in their eyes they’re defeated. So, when I imagine people like myself and these men waiting for a year or more for counselling it makes me feel fearful. Not all survivors are as lucky as I am, not all of us have the strength to hang on. The reality is that not all of us will make it.” Neil
AASAS, on behalf of sexual assault services across Alberta, requested ongoing, sustainable funding from the Alberta Government to:
- decrease the counselling wait lists;
- address the increasingly complex needs of survivors;
- help survivors to access justice, and
- provide school-based and community-based prevention programs so we can keep our communities safe.
These four recommendations for enhanced resources will help address the needs of survivors and make progress towards ending sexual violence in our province.
With a large budget surplus, and with so much need from Albertans, it is extremely disappointing the Government did not make investments that meaningfully address the unmet needs of survivors of sexual violence.
We recognize that the Government has many priorities given the challenges that Albertans are facing, but not increasing investments in Sexual Assault Centres seems to indicate a lack of understanding of how sexual violence is linked to some of our most serious social and health problems – like addictions; chronic and persistent mental illness; homelessness; and unemployment.
After over 7 months of discussions, it should be clear that the needs of Albertans are dire.
And while the Ministry of Community and Social Services did give more funds in 2019, that money was used to cover a one million dollar funding cut by the Ministry of Justice, and to expand services into rural areas of the province where they were in dire need of more support.
One-time funding was offered by a government working group this January, but that would not address an ongoing need, and definitely not in an ethical or effective manner.
With many rural areas still without specialized sexual assault support services, and current sexual assault centres overwhelmed with demand, we continued to reach out to the working group, the minister, and MLAs to further negotiate. The need for increased, adequate sustainable funding is dire and there is no way we will stop negotiating and advocating for survivors in Alberta.
Spread the word by sharing social media content with the hashtag #SupportSurvivorsAB
Contact your MLA and let them know sustainably funding specialized sexual assault support services is a priority. Survivors should not be disregarded and funding should be allocated in this budget and before the election.