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Victims and Survivors of Crime Week: Part One

Have you wondered what VSAC’s services are like? In this 4 part blog series for Victims and Survivors of Crime Week we explore services that VSAC provides to survivors of sexual assault. 

Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic

Timely, compassionate care when it’s needed most.

It’s just after seven in the evening when the pager goes off. Ali Shewan is a Sexual Assault Support Worker and she has received a call that a recent survivor of sexual assault needs support.

Ali Shewan, Sexual Assault Support Worker

The survivor is seeking medical care but feels apprehensive about going to the hospital. Hospital environments can be intimidating. Ali lets the survivor know they have the option of visiting the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic instead.

The Clinic, which opened two years ago, is the first and only integrated sexual assault clinic in British Columbia. The Sexual Assault Clinic was created to break down barriers to receiving timely health care after a sexual assault. Designed with survivors in mind, the space is private, quiet, and calm; and the atmosphere is open and accepting. “The Clinic is a non-intrusive environment for survivors in a critical point in their healing journey,” says Karen Wickham, the Clinic Coordinator.

The Clinic provides a single location for recent survivors of sexual assault to access key services and acts as an information hub connecting survivors to the next steps in their healing process. The Clinic is accessible 24 hours a day for up to one week after the sexual assault occurred.

When a survivor arrives at the Clinic, they are met by the Sexual Assault Response Team which includes a VSAC sexual assault support worker, such as Ali, and a forensic nurse examiner. They sit down and discuss options with the survivor, including medical examinations, access to preventative medications, forensic evidence collection which can be stored for up to a year (within 72 hours of an assault), and if a survivor wishes, police involvement.

In the days after a sexual assault has occurred, it is key to provide non-judgmental support and options. Respecting a survivor’s choice, and their right to change it at any time is paramount.

“The survivor was just in a situation where their choice was taken away from them. It is critical that they can make choices during their time at the Clinic,” Ali explains.

Directly after a sexual assault, when trust is at its lowest point, the Clinic provides a place where survivors feel supported, cared for, and safe to come through the doorway and receive the support they need to move forward. When a survivor receives immediate, compassionate support, it has a significant impact on their healing. A positive first response shortens the time it takes to recover and heal.

Knowing this inspires Ali to continue her work. “Whether or not my pager goes off sexual assault is happening. The pager going off means someone is reaching out for support. The pager going off is a good thing.”

*Since the Clinic opened in 2016, requests for the Sexual Assault Response Team have increased by 173%. This means more survivors are receiving support.

The clinic is available 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. To access the clinic is to call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line: 1-888-494-3888. From there, the caller will be connected with a support worker to discuss options and accessing the clinic.

This blog is part of our 4 blog series for Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2018. Please look out for our advertorial wrap on the Victoria News and Saanich News coming out on June 1st. Funding generously provided by The Department of Justice Canada.