According to Statistics Canada, Kingston has the highest rate of police-reported sexual violence in Ontario. The report stated that Kingston saw more than a 25 per cent increase in police-reported sexual violence in the year 2018.
To Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) Kingston, the report was a confirmation of a reality they were already familiar with. SAC provides free counselling and support services to survivors of sexual violence ages 12 and up throughout Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington. The amount of survivors seeking their services has virtually doubled in the past three years, explained SAC Kingston executive director Brea Hutchinson.
“In 2016, we served approximately 220 survivors a year. Today we can expect to support more than 400,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said although their counsellors were doing their best to cope with the increased demand, the waiting list had become four months long.
This waiting list could be “cleared in a day” by using the provincial government’s offered funding increase to hire two more full time counsellors, Hutchinson said. The centre was offered a 30 per cent increase in funding over three years in early 2018 to help with the surge in demand. However, the original offer was rescinded in March 2019 and replaced with a one-time funding increase of $20,000.
SAC is “going to get $20,560 for the next one year” instead of the original offer that would amount to “$88,000 for three years,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said that the SAC has been “getting very resourceful when it comes to solutions,” stating that she was “proud of the team” for “managing pretty well.”
Despite their inability to hire more full time staff, Hutchinsaid said, “We have a great volunteer pool. We have our crisis line number. Some of our volunteers are psychotherapists. We’ve been doing an art therapy course. We’ve been doing more yoga therapy.”
While some community members may be shocked or saddened to hear of the increase, Hutchinson said that it is the result of many factors and did not necessarily mean that more assaults were occurring.
“I am glad that more survivors coming forward, accessing services, and demanding justice,” said Hutchinson. “I’m sad about how the government has cut funding in light of this rapid increase.”
For more information about SAC Kingston, please visit their website at http://sackingston.com. For immediate assistance, call their 24-hour crisis line at 613-544-6424 or 1-877-544-6424.