THE government on Tuesday announced more help for survivors of sexual assault through a three-year, $10-million grant program to support the delivery of co-ordinated emergency sexual assault response services in regions throughout B.C.
“Gender-based violence, including sexual assault, can increase during times of crisis, and that’s why our government continues to prioritize services and supports for survivors of these devastating crimes,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This grant program will help organizations throughout the province provide sexual assault survivors with swift access to compassionate and comprehensive care.”
The Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) has received the funding to administer the grant program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office and the Minister’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Women (MACIW). This grant program will help organizations deliver community-based emergency sexual assault response services that are trauma informed and culturally appropriate. The services will meet the needs of sexual assault survivors around the province, including the unique needs of Indigenous communities and survivors.
Sexual assault disproportionately impacts women, girls and LGBTQ2S+ people. Indigenous women and girls are especially at risk of being targeted.
EVA BC is a longstanding anti-violence organization, supporting community co-ordination in responding to violence against women. It also provides information, training and support to community-based victim service programs, Stopping the Violence counselling programs and outreach and multicultural outreach programs throughout the province. Given its expertise and knowledge of the victim service and anti-violence sector, along with the relationships the organization has with service providers, EVA BC is well positioned to administer this grant program.
The Province funds a range of services to support victims of sexual violence and provides more than $40 million in annual funding to support over 400 victim service and violence against women programs throughout the province. In addition, the Province recently introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act to provide up to five days paid leave for people facing domestic or sexual violence, improving on the supports for working people introduced in 2019 that gave employees 10 days unpaid leave.
Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, said: “Sexual assault strikes at the heart of a person’s sense of safety and autonomy. It can cause lifelong trauma if people can’t access the supports they need to heal. I’ve worked supporting people who have faced violence for most of my career and I know first-hand that it’s essential for people who have been sexually assaulted to have the services they need when they need them.”
Tracy Porteous, Executive Director, EVA BC, noted: “For the past 18 years, EVA BC has been in dialogue with the Province about the status of sexual assault response in B.C. and the need for specific services for survivors. Sexual assault is considered the most under-reported, violent crime in Canada, and while other violent crime is on the decline, sexual assault is on the rise. Early intervention, as well as emotional and practical support for survivors, have proven to be lifesaving. This move today by our government will provide survivors with the emergency care they need to begin to heal, and we look most forward to working with community anti-violence services, Indigenous communities and the Province to further the network of support for survivors in B.C.”
Elba Bendo, Director of Law Reform, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), pointed out: “Community-based sexual assault programs play an essential role in supporting survivors of sexual assault – especially those who face barriers to accessing health care, justice and other government supports. West Coast LEAF, alongside partner organizations EVA BC, YWCA Metro Vancouver, Women Against Violence Against Women and Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, have long been advocating for these essential services to receive dedicated, sustainable and adequate funding. Today’s funding announcement is a welcome step in the right direction and has the potential to significantly improve access to justice for survivors of sexual assault.”
Barbara Ward-Burkitt, Chair, MACIW, said: “A recent survey and consultation by the Native Women’s Association of Canada suggests that many Indigenous women and girls have indicated they are more concerned about gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic than the virus itself. This ongoing violence against Indigenous women and girls compromises the health, safety, well-being and self-respect of its victims. Violence against Indigenous women and girls in itself is a pandemic across our country and it is continuing to grow. It is critically important for MACIW to continue to work in consultation with the Province to ensure that the voices of Indigenous women and girls are being heard as we work collaboratively to improve the health, safety and wellness of Indigenous women and girls.”