Sexual assault counselling request jump 67 per cent in Lambton

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County councillors calls for more funding for sexual assault survivors centre

The head of the Sarnia-Lambton Sexual Assault Survivors Centre says requests for counselling have jumped 67 per cent in the last year.

Chantel Butterfield was at Lambton County Council Wednesday to outline the crisis the centre is facing in the wake of the Me Too Movement and the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, survivors were already reaching out to us in record numbers. In the post Me Too era, the demand for services was at an all time and at that time – in 2018 – in response to this increase, the previous Ontario government announced an approximate 30 per cent increase to sexual violence sector in Ontario,” Butterfield said.

“Despite this firm commitment under the current provincial government that funding never became a reality, then the pandemic hit.

“The pandemic has also had a significant impact on people’s mental health and wellness. For survivors who’ve experienced trauma, this impact is magnified and many survivors have been pushed to the brink during this period, reaching out to us in crisis. The combination of these realities … has meant the demand for our services has increased radically across all of our programs. Most notably, requests for our direct services have increased 67 per cent in just the last year.”

And Butterfield says “there have been no increases to core funding for community based sexual assault centers” from the province.

The head of the Butterfield asked Lambton County councillors for their support to press the Ontario goverment “to provide increased and most importantly sustainable funding for community based sexual assault support centers.

“We need the advocacy of our municipalities right now.”

Councillors passed a motion calling for more funding unanimously. However Sarnia City/County Councillor Brian White says the county has to be more aware of the need for services in the community since it impacts homelessness.

“If we look into the services that we provide, ensuring that our community partners are able to provide the services is a critical part of that strategy. So I think the message needs to be sent loud and clear to the province that it’s time to step up and support people where they truly need it.”