Sexual assault centre requests emergency funding after Rehtaeh Parsons case
The head of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax has launched a petition asking the province and the mayor of Halifax for $200,000 in emergency funding.
Irene Smith says the Rehtaeh Parsons case has prompted a large number of calls for help at the centre and workers are having a hard time keeping up.
“Our youth, parents, school professionals, I think we’re all saying we need some leadership to deal with this issue,” says Smith.
She says the province needs to consider hiring more counsellors, advocates and community prevention specialists.
“It’s been a lot for us here at the centre to try and manage and recognizing that there are people out there who are suffering and are needing our help and we can’t offer it the way we should be able to.”
Smith says the funding would go toward three positions - reinstating a legal support advocacy position it lost about a year ago, adding a new counselor and adding an education and communications specialist to focus on social media. Pamela Harrison, co-ordinator at the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, says she isn’t surprised the sexual assault centre is overwhelmed by calls.
“Our organizations have reported an increased number of calls in part around issues of sexual assault,” says Harrison.
“It’s almost like it’s opened a floodgate and people, particularly women, want to talk about it and want to be heard and to be validated.”
Marilyn More, minister responsible for the Status of Women, says the centre already receives more than $600,000 from government.
Marilyn More also says government has to be careful that any expansion is in line with what they’re already doing across the province.
“Certainly, I understand why they’re making the request,” says More. “We have to be careful that we’re just not doing the one-offs. I think that’s been part of the challenge in the past.”
But Opposition leaders say the province needs to act now.
“We all know the more supports, and the sooner we can provide that support, the better the outcomes will be for those individuals,” says Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil. “So, the sooner the government does it, the better.”
“If that requires both an immediate response by government and a longer-term solution, let’s do both,” says Tory Leader Jamie Baillie.
Harrisonbelieves those who work in the women’s community understands it is an emergency situation.
“And I can’t imagine any of our organizations being unhappy or in any way concerned about the fact that Avalon may get some emergency funding.”
A spokesperson in the mayor’s office says they would like to speak to workers at the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.
There is no word on when the province might make a decision about the emergency funding.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster