The B.C. government has provided a second $10 million to expand access to its emergency sexual assault services program, which was oversubscribed with last year and likely will be again.
The first $10 million in 2020 covered multi-year funding for 23 organizations, administered by the Ending Violence Society of B.C. Half was allocated to Indigenous-led organizations.
With the province estimating that half of B.C. women having experienced physical or sexual violence since age 16, the second round isn’t expected to cover all of the applications. It will expand grants to “additional programs from among a pool of already adjudicated, strong applications that were not funded under the grant program when it first launched,” the public safety ministry said May 28.
The first round supported Indigenous organizations in Burns Lake, Telegraph Creek, Williams Lake, Bella Coola, Burns Lake, Westbank, Chilliwack and Surrey among others. Other services funded last year are in Port Alberni, Kelowna, Terrace, Smithers, Nelson, Salmon Arm, Victoria, Surrey and Vancouver.
Tracy Porteous, co-executive director of Ending Violence Association of B.C., said sexual assault undermines survivors’ ability to feel safe, have relationships and earn an income, as well as seek help.
“If it is truly our collective intention to encourage more survivors to come forward, in order that more survivors have access to psychological assistance and care, so that the life-altering traumatic effects can be mitigated, then we need to make sure that there are services in communities on the ground across B.C.,” Porteous said.
Surrey Women’s Centre executive director Shahnaz Rahman said her service has seen rapid growth of immigrant and Indigenous groups.
“During this double pandemic, the grant funding has allowed us to maximize our operations on the streets of Surrey to seven nights a week and offer critical trauma-informed sexual assault response to 3,500 more women in Surrey this year,” Rahman said.
The grant program is in addition to a larger effort to provide counselling, outreach and support for women and children who experience domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. Overall, the province spends $42 million annually to support more than 400 victim service and violence against women programs in B.C.