A new provincial chat-line hopes to meet the increasing demand of victims needing help after sexual violence, especially in rural areas.
The Dragonfly Centre was one of 11 centres across the province connected to the satellite feed debuting Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence on Monday morning.
The text and chat line is meant to provide private, confidential support to sexual violence victims and boost access to specialized services for survivors.
This is the first provincial service of its kind in Canada.
“Our centre welcomes the Alberta One-Line as an important tool to add to the continuum of specialized client programs that aim to support individuals who have been impacted by sexual violence and engaging in their healing journey,” said Cheryl Bujold, executive director of the Dragonfly Centre.
“We have seen an increase in demand in services. Ours has been exponential.”
The Dragonfly Centre has seen a 900 per cent increase in the number of clients served since 2015.
In Nov. 2018, Bujold said the number of intakes had grown by 300 per cent over the last six month period from that time last year.
“We know that our communities had previously been underserved and we do see a shift happening in this field.
“It’s campaigns such as #MeToo and our provincial campaign #IBelieveYou that are helping individuals come forward and share their stories and share their experiences and we think that is such a positive thing,” said Bujold.
The Dragonfly Centre hopes that the chat-line will help reduce barriers to victims who live in rural areas where the rate of sexual violence is often higher relative to the population.
The text line is modelled from the Red Deer Sexual Assault Centre’s pilot project and has been developed with help by the Government of Alberta, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.
Support will be available 9:00am-9:00pm, seven days a week with access to interpretation services in over 200 languages.
One Line will be staffed by trained, specialized responders, both paid and volunteer.
“For years, survivors have avoided to reach out because they didn’t they’d be believed,” said Debra Tomlinson, CEO of Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS).
“One-Line is a response to that demand.”
Deputy Mayor Elisa Brosseau spoke at the event at the Centennial Centre as well.
“The majority of victims cannot afford to wait for help with long wait-times, and through no fault of their own in many cases, they cannot get the help they need because it’s not acceptable in our rural areas, or it’s simply too expensive.
“With the implementation of a free tool to talk, text and chat victims can no longer be subservient living in shame, they can access the help and support they need to regain their independence once again,” said Brosseau.
Reeve Greg Sawchuk said the rise in sexual violence cases could also be the product of societal changes in young people.
“It’s a concern when hearing the numbers are on the rise. I can’t help but believe that’s been brought on by our society and how our young men and women are attacked day and night by different things that can affect the way they operate and act,” said Sawchuk.
BCHS students performed three songs at the event commemorating the launch of the chat-line.
The chat-line is 1-866-403-8000.