Monday , 14 June 2021

Dragonfly expects 30 per cent client increase by year’s end, as province completes sexual assault study

The Dragonfly Centre is anticipating a 30 per cent increase in the number of total clients they serve by the end of the fiscal year.

The Sexual Assault Support Centre estimates a total of nearly 1000 clients by the end of the year within their counselling, crisis, and advocacy services, with 37 per cent of those being children.

That’s up from 779 total clients last year.

While the numbers are growing, executive director Cheryl Bujold is not surprised.

This week, the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services published a study that revealed sexual violence is more prevalent than previously believed.

Over 1500 adults were surveyed in the study, which revealed almost half of Albertans have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes.

Two out of every three women, and one out of every three men experience some form of abuse in their lives.

The study bore out that 92 per cent of these instances against adults reached the threshold of a crime, while 100 per cent of those against children reached the threshold of a crime.

‘We always knew the statistics were higher’

“We’re not surprised by these statistics. These are just statistics that we definitely see at the agency,” said Bujold.

“This information gives us a really clear idea of what we’re dealing with when it comes to sexual violence and we always knew that those statistics were higher than what they’ve put out there. But this confirms for us that it’s definitely an issue.”

The study estimates that 1.8 million Albertans have experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime – roughly 45 per cent of the province.

The last time a study like this was done goes back to 1984 and the numbers are fairly consistent, with a slight uptick.

“Our goal is to have people talking about these issues at their kitchen tables. And I think we’re on track. We’ve made baby steps. Even in society in general, whether with the MeToo movement and then our I Believe You campaigns, we’re seeing a slow shift and that cultural change, but it’s very slow,” said Bujold.

“We have to keep in mind that there’s a lot of work to do.”

Lessening the gaps

One of the keys to the work that’s done at the Dragonfly Centre is lessening the gaps victims have to get help and treat trauma after sexual violence.

While working within the Lakeland in Bonnyville, Cold Lake, St. Paul, Lac La Biche, and reaching four Metis communities and seven First Nations reserves, the Dragonfly Centre saw the need from outside is still great.

A satellite office in Athabasca opened on Jan. 15 to help those in the North Central region in an effort to provide services within an hour drive of clients.

“That North Central Region, we’re seeing the need there. About 10 per cent of our clients were coming from that area requesting services,” said Bujold.

“What we’re trying to do is get satellite office and services available for folks within an hour drive of their home community.

“We know what happens with trauma that’s left untreated. That has serious health and social consequences for those folks dealing with these situations.”

Reaching out to schools

One thing the Dragonfly Centre is focusing on is getting into schools to talk to young people.

Their education/community engagement department has three workers who help with such programs like the Who Can You Tell campaign that has been touring Grade 1-4 classrooms.

However, to provide these services they need funding.

The provincial government supplies most of the money to the Dragonfly Centre as a non-profit organization, but Bujold said the community is stepping up in big ways to help out.

“We’ve received an increase in donations across the board from everywhere from the firefighters to the oil ladies. The Three Amigos did an event for us. Additionally, we’ve had the banks Lakeland Credit Union and ATB,” she said.

Moving forward, Bujold said they’re looking at a fee-for-service project.

“We’re going to pilot some generalist counseling. Things that people might want to access treatment for outside of sexual violence specific situations. Depression, anxiety, parenting skills, things like that. And so we have will have a sliding scale for clients, based on income and number of people in their household,” she said.

“I think in the next little while our focus is just really about getting those services out to residents and for them to know that there is support for them. We’ve had a chance to look at what we’re doing well within ourselves and what we can offer the community in terms of the funding that we do have. I don’t think we’re in a position where there’s going to be there’s not going to be any changes on the government iIn terms of funding, so we have to work with what we have. Our goal is to provide services and make it accessible and ensure that people have access.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.