New help line launched for sexual assault survivors

By Charles Lefebvre
May 6, 2019 - 4:56pm Updated: May 6, 2019 - 7:10pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB — Sexual assault response centres across Alberta banded together to launch a new service to help survivors of sexual violence begin healing.

Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence launched Monday morning, with a simulcast announcement in 11 communities, including Medicine Hat.

The One Line is a phone and text line which allows survivors of sexual violence to receive private and confidential information and support, and be referred to specialized services, such as clinicians and police.

“We’re really excited to launch today the first line of its kind to cover Alberta,” said Christina Johnson, executive director of the Southeastern Alberta Sexual Assault Response Committee (sarc).

The line is staffed between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day, and there will be access to interpretation services in over 200 languages, including Cree, according to a release from the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.

Johnson says the line helps meet a need for SARC.

“Unfortunately, still today, SARC does not have all the core services of a sexual assault centre, based on funding,” she said. “One of those core services we did not have was a crisis line. This line will help bridge that gap, and provide immediate response for individuals who have survived sexual assault and sexual abuse, and then will provide appropriate referrals to necessary places, which may include us, and may include our stakeholders and partners.”

Johnson adds it can also bridge the gap for rural residents serviced by SARC.

“Our individuals travel as far as two hours away to access, say our SARC team at our hospital if they want to access a third option,” she said. “How do you know if you even have the option to choose a third option, unless you have a line like this to run through all of your choices in an unbiased way?”

During the announcement, Johnson said between 2017 and 2018, demand for services at SARC increased 350 per cent, which she attributes to the #MeToo movement. As a result, the waitlist for services was nine months at one point. It has since been reduced to two months following an increase in funding.

“A line like this would have been critical in 2017 to help support individuals, and it is now, as they wait for service,” said Johnson.

The number for the line is 1-866-403-8000.

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