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Announcing the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic!

Picture of the 3060 Cedar Hill Rd building.

We have some exciting news for you!  In February 2016, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC) will open a new clinic in our community specifically designed to meet the unique needs of survivors of sexual assault.

First of its kind in British Columbia,  the clinic will shift key services and supports for recent survivors of sexual assault from the hospital and police stations to one location, the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic. Our goal is to create a warm, welcoming centre where the healing process can begin as soon as a survivor walks through the door.

Developed by VSAC with enthusiastic collaboration from Forensic Nurse Examiners, local police and RCMP, the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic will house a full spectrum of services including crisis support, medical/forensic exam and police interviews for survivors of sexual assault. The Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic will also share space with the Child Advocacy Centre in partnership with the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Centre (VCAPCC).

We recently had the chance to speak with Jan Calnan, a dedicated Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) for the past 16 years, who is specially trained to provide medical and/or forensic care to recent survivors of sexual assault.  The Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic has been a longstanding vision of Jan and her passion for this project was evident when we spoke.

What excites you about the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic?

I have always thought a survivor needs a community of support around them.  The idea of the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic is that it will be a one-stop-shop for survivors.  The clinic will have counsellors, support workers, victim service workers, and us [FNEs] all in one place so the survivor can really feel that sense that there is a community of people to support them.

Another big advantage is that it takes survivors out of the emergency room department.  The ER can be a barrier to care for so many survivors for so many different reasons.  In the emergency room waiting room, survivors can feel on display, they can experience longer waits; it’s not a confidential space, especially when the survivor has to tell the triage nurse what they are there for within earshot of other patients.

My hope for the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic is that it will offer more personalized care for survivors as well as more of a therapeutic environment.  We are meeting people at one of the lowest points of their lives and they need to be met in a place where they can feel safe to start the healing process.

How will the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic benefit survivors?

Ultimately, I hope it will make survivors feel more connected to the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.  When we meet with a survivor it is usually within the first 7 days after the sexual assault.  Having a support worker from the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre be a part of the process from the beginning is important because they can offer support, that is knowledgeable and informed, as well as connect the survivor to ongoing support services.

How do you think our community will benefit from the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic?

I think people would be surprised by how many people experience sexual assault in Victoria.  If the statistic is that only 1 in 10 people come forward for help, then we are not seeing nearly as many as we should.  My hope is that the clinic will help to increase accessibility for people to come forward to seek support after a sexual assault.

How do you think the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic will affect your work as a FNE?

Hopefully, I will be busier.  The reality is that sexual assault is happening in our community and people aren’t being served. There is a stigma with going to the hospital and many people will not go.  I think we will be able to provide better care to more survivors outside the emergency room department.

What would you want survivors to know about accessing this service?

There is someone available to listen and that this process is totally about them.  Other people might think differently and have ideas about what they should do, but everything is entirely the survivor’s decision.  They are totally in control.  I think the first step to healing is to feel a sense of control again, control over what is happening and control over what decisions they can make. As FNEs, we are there, along with the VSAC support worker, to help facilitate that.  After I meet with a survivor, I always thank them for coming in.  It can be a really hard thing to do and I want the survivor to know that we appreciate how much it took for them to walk through the door.

Jan’s words articulate the importance of having a clinic like this in our community. Research shows that when a survivor receives compassionate support during the initial response, it has a significant impact on their healing.  Through your support we can make a welcoming, safe and confidential environment for all survivors of sexual assault to feel that healing is possible.

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PS – Your ongoing support allows the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre to continue vital work in our community.

Thank you.