news and updates
With financial support from The Law Foundation of Ontario, Our Centre is pleased to announce the pilot of a new, precedent-setting position at our Centre - Sexual Violence Legal Advocate. The Sexual Violence Legal Advocate will support survivors of sexual violence in seeking out the justice they deserve. This free service will soon be open to all genders and includes case management, individual advocacy, assistance with documents, and court accompaniment.
We're setting a precedent for change
We know that the justice system is often retraumatizing, frustrating, and overwhelming for victims of sexual violence. Earlier this year, our community witnessed this fact when a local survivor faced a $2,600 fine after her rapist reported her for sharing a transcript of her case that contained her name with members of her family and close friends.
As a response to this case, lawyer Pamela Cross (one of Canada’s leading women’s advocates) called on Ontario to "Implement a province-wide system of community-based sexual assault legal advocates, similar to Ontario’s Family Court Support Workers, who could provide case-management style support to survivors throughout their legal proceedings."
We agree that a province-wide system of community-based sexual assault legal advocates is necessary. Victims of gender-based violence often have to navigate several legal systems simultaneously because of their sexual assault, including criminal court, family court, tribunals, and immigration proceedings. Black, Indigenous and Racialized survivors, those living with disabilities, and/or those living on lower incomes experience additional barriers to accessing justice.
In the end, the barriers faced by survivors impact whether or not they are willing to report. A study by Justice Canada found that ⅔ of victims of sexual violence were “not confident in the court process and justice system in general.” The study found that the most frequently reported reasons for not reporting sexual assault were:
The study recommended creating a Legal Advocate position “to support sexual assault victims through the entire legal process, that is, from the time the incident occurs through to the court process and after the trial has ended.”
Therefore, the goal of this pilot will be to demonstrate the ability of this model to improve access to justice for victims of sexual assault. Through external evaluation, we will assess the impact of this service on survivors of sexual violence. Evaluation results will help grow this model at our Centre and beyond, so more survivors can receive support in navigating the legal system. We will share results with the 31 members of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres to bolster advocacy efforts for this much-needed service.
Our sincere thanks to The Law Foundation of Ontario for making this pilot program possible. We also wish to thank the following organizations and professionals for their non-monetary support of the Sexual Violence Legal Advocate position:
Equitable Life of Canada Gives Back with Five-Year Funding Commitment to Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region
The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region’s Executive Director, Sara Casselman (left), is presented with a cheque from Equitable Life of Canada staff, Cam Crosbie and Donna Warner.
KITCHENER, Ont — The Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) is celebrating a significant funding commitment from Equitable Life of Canada (Equitable); the mutual company is giving back with a $100,000 pledge to the Centre’s Counselling Program, spread out over five years.
SASC’s Executive Director, Sara Casselman, says that the funding comes at a time of urgent need. In recent years, issues like the #MeToo movement and the COVID-19 crisis have caused more and more survivors to reach out for help.
"Over the past few years, demand for our Centre's services has skyrocketed, due to the impact of the #MeToo movement, and now, the added challenge of a global pandemic. At any given time, we have well over 100 people waiting to access our services. Gifts like the one from Equitable help us to live out our promise to all survivors: you are not alone.”
Equitable, a well-established company in Waterloo Region (they celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2020), responded to the community’s increased need for sexual assault support services over the past few years as a sponsor of SASC’s annual fundraising gala. When COVID-19 placed restrictions on in-person events last year, Equitable continued to support the Centre’s virtual fundraising initiatives. As the pandemic continued and SASC faced another year of cancelling in-person events, Equitable committed to increased and longer-term funding, living out the mutual company’s vision of corporate social responsibility.
“We are thrilled to be able to come alongside SASC and help support their mission,” said Rebecca Freiburger, Director, Corporate Communications at Equitable Life of Canada. “The work they’re doing in our community will continue to transform the lives of those affected by sexual assault and provide hope to survivors and their families.”
Casselman says the gift will help create needed change for local survivors.
"Equitable's investment is a wonderful commitment to supporting survivors in our community. This gift will wrap survivors in community care when they need it the most by helping our Centre to grow and sustain our Counselling program. We are so thankful for this meaningful contribution."
About Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region
For over 30 years, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC) has wrapped survivors of sexual violence in community care. From counselling, court support, practical assistance, advocacy work and more - SASC walks beside survivors through their entire healing journey. Services are free and come without time limits. SASC’s motto to survivors is: “You are not alone.”
For additional information about this release, please contact:
Sara Casselman, Executive Director
Phone: 519-571-0121 ext. 100
March 16, 2020
For more than 30 years our Centre has wrapped survivors of sexual violence in community care. Our motto has always been you are not alone. As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re committed to continuing to live this out.
In this time of uncertainty, we realize that survivors of sexual violence need our support more than ever. With this in mind, we’re doubling our capacity to respond to survivors on our 24-Hour Support Line. You can reach us any time of the day or night at (519) 741-8633. A trained and caring member of our team will respond; our volunteers and staff will be working in collaboration to ensure support is there when you reach out.
In order to ensure the well-being of survivors, our team members, and our community more broadly, our Centre is implementing the following changes, effective March 17, 2020:
Our office is closed to the public until it’s safe to re-open. Our staff team will be working remotely whenever possible to ensure the continuation of our services.
The following programs will move to an online and/or teleservice (Zoom) model. Staff members from each program area will be in touch with our clients to arrange details for:
While in-person group and workshops have been suspended, we will soon be offering online workshops (via Zoom) for survivors. Necessity is the mother of invention! More information about these workshops will be posted on our website and on social media soon.
We’re committed to implementing new and innovative ways to continue our long history of caring for survivors in Waterloo Region.
Much like all of you, we’ll continue to monitor this situation closely; if changes are required, we’ll post updates. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@SASCWR) or visit our website at sascwr.org for the most up to date information.
I believe an attitude of gratitude can be transformational during challenging times. Today I’m grateful for the community that surrounds us. I’m grateful for our volunteers, picking up extra shifts on our 24-Hour Support Line. I’m grateful for colleagues that voluntarily forfeit vacation to help with pandemic planning. I’m grateful to be part of a team that would move heaven and earth to ensure our services continue to exist. I’m grateful for a Board of Directors, who sincerely cares about our mission and the wellness of our team. I’m grateful for our donors, who demonstrate their solidarity in such a tangible way.
You are not alone…and neither are we.
I wish everyone good health and well-being during this time. For local updates, and for tips on how to protect yourself from COVID-19, please visit: http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/COVID19
Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region
SASC would like to extend our sincere appreciation to United Way Waterloo Region Communities, and to their wonderful donors, for their Forever Fund Grant to our Anti-Human Trafficking Program. This grant of $15,000 enriches our anti-human trafficking program and increases our ability to support youth affected by this issue. Thank you, United Way!
To learn about our Anti-Human Trafficking Program, visit sascwr.org/ahtp
To learn about United Way Waterloo Region Communities, check out: uwaywrc.ca
Are you ready to RAWR?! Join the adventure and Race Across Waterloo Region on June 13, 2020 to support survivors of sexual violence. RAWR! integrates paddling, biking, and trekking, and features three different distance options, with competitive and non-competitive classes, encouraging racers of all levels to join the adventure. The course is designed as an introduction to Adventure Racing.
This week in Waterloo Region, a 20-year-old woman was convicted of trafficking a 15-year-old girl for sex. In the first 8 months of 2019, 75 cases were being investigated by Waterloo Regional Police. It is widely understood that most cases are never reported. The average age of victims is 12 to 15. Ninety-three percent are female. Accessed through technology and driven by demand and profit, our children and young people are easy targets for traffickers. Human sex trafficking is the sale of humans for sex. It involves deceit, force, coercion and control of a person by threats of emotional, mental and sometimes physical violence for sexual exploitation and forced commercial sex. Awareness is the first step towards action.
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