Since launching in 2019, Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence has been contacted over 10,000 times by people in about 100 communities.
The sexual violence helpline is a toll-free talk, text, or chat service that provides support or referrals to anyone impacted by sexual violence. The helpline has been especially useful in bridging service gaps in rural and remote communities, said Haley Scott, Co-CEO for the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.
“We do our best to promote the One Line in rural communities across the province, because we're hoping to reach people who live in communities where there is not yet an established sexual violence service,” Scott said.
“One of our primary aims at AASAS is to increase access to specialized sexual violence services and support. (Alberta’s One Line) was an initiative that was in recognition that there are large parts of the province in which it can be challenging for people to access specialized services in or near their home community.”
A 2020 study by AASAS on the prevalence of sexual violence found that 43 per cent of Albertans, 1.8 million people, had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and 67 per cent personally knew a survivor of sexual violence or abuse.
“So I think it's important to talk about the fact that sexual violence either directly or indirectly impacts all individuals, families, and communities,” Scott said.
During the first months of the pandemic, the helpline saw a surge in the number of people reaching out for help. The reported rate of sexual assault jumped 21 per cent in Alberta in 2021, and has been increasing nationwide since 2014, according to Statistics Canada.
Demand for support continues to be high, and following the pandemic sexual violence service providers have also noticed an increase in the complexity of the clients’ needs, Scott said.
“We see now the clients struggling with basic needs: food insecurity, housing insecurity, unemployment, increase in mental health challenges, suicide, self-harm, increased isolation, increased barriers accessing medical care, and other mental health supports, like for psychologists and psychiatrists for issues not related to sexual violence. Different things like that are presenting now more than ever, in terms of concerns that clients need support with on top of the sexual violence that they've experienced.”
To try and remain responsive to these additional barriers and increasing complexities, Scott said sexual assault centres are trying to build relationships with other community organizations, so that when someone comes forward with these types of needs, referral processes are already in place.
Alberta's One Line for Sexual Violence is available to call or text at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Brett McKay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette