P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre says it's not funded for a crisis line

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P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre says it's not funded for a crisis line

P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre says it's not funded for a crisis line

The Prince Edward Island Rape and Sexual Assault Centre is speaking out after an exchange in the legislature last week pointed to wait times for victims of rape or sexual assault to receive counselling.

The centre is a non-profit organization that provides counselling services to victims of rape or sexual assault on the Island.

During Thursday's sitting, Jordan Brown, Liberal MLA for Charlottetown-Brighton, questioned Paula Biggar, minister responsible for the Status of Women, on the response time of the centre.

"At a recent hearing of the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness ... It was explained that a recent rape victim had called the help line and received a recording stating that if they left their name and number, someone would be in touch within seven days," he said. 

"Minister has your secretariat had any discussions with the centre with respect to improving response times or confirming that they are in fact getting back quicker than the seven days stated in the message?" Brown asked.

Sigrid Rolfe, organizational coordinator at the centre, said Brown's line of questioning misrepresents the services the centre provides.

"The centre does not operate a help line or crisis line ... We are not able to provide that service, but we have a number that is a counseling request line," Rolfe explained.

Questioning not 'meant to place blame'

"We have a very small staff size and can't always guarantee that a therapist will be available to answer all the incoming phone calls and we don't have any additional office staff to do that," Rolfe said. 

The centre returns calls as promptly as possible, she added.

Brown responded to Rolfe's concerns today, saying the line of questioning wasn't meant to place blame, but to inform Islanders of the services that are out there.

"I'm not here to diminish the centre, but if people perceive that as being the only face of government, we need to ensure people be aware of what it actually is," Brown said.

Brown said it was his intention to let people know other services are available for emergencies such as 911, the hospital emergency department or walk-in clinics.

'It's a matter of government priorities'

"We take our service very, very seriously and are always looking for ways to improve what we can offer," said Rolfe. To that end, she said, the centre has applied for a grant to hire an outside evaluator to look at the service. 

"If people are expecting a hotline, crisis line, help line, then that will be a big disappointment," she noted. 

The centre is a non-profit organization and operates on a limited budget, she said, adding the centre does not have the money to hire someone to answer the phone 24-7, so they set up a voice messaging system.

"We could all use more resources but there's plenty of asks out so there, so I guess it's a matter of government priorities," she said. 

The minister did tell the legislature on Thursday that she will ask the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness to invite the Rape and Sexual Assault Centre to make a presentation to the committee about its work.

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