We’ve been serving our community since 1982. Here’s our story.
In 1982, the Status of Women Action Group sponsored a Standing Committee with various women’s groups and individuals, who wrote a proposal for a new sexual assault centre. This was to ensure continued availability of support services for women who have been sexually assaulted after a local agency called Rape Relief lost funding.
A Board of Directors was formed, then set about to establish a viable and effective independent society. Core funding for the new Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Centre Society (VSAC) was negotiated and secured from the BC Ministry of Attorney-General. By the fall of 1982, VSAC had established an office, hired three part-time staff and recruited our first group of volunteers for crisis line work. Since then VSAC has continued to provide services to survivors of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse and their supporters.
Our commitment to developing best practices for counselling of survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault has resulted in the development of a gamut of services including support, victim services, crisis counselling and longer term trauma counselling.
From the beginning, VSAC made a conscious decision to develop a diversified funding base to enable development innovative programs in counselling, public awareness and prevention. VSAC currently relies on government for less than half of a 1.2 million dollar budget. Our fund raising and public awareness events include the annual “Triathlon of Compassion” and “Fast Five Fundraiser.”
We have published award winning booklets and manuals. These have included information booklets for clients, families and partners as well as manuals for service providers on developing and implementing programs.
In 1999, we launched a youth focused prevention initiative called Project Respect. Project Respect is a group of youth and adults who work together to create awareness and dialogue around the issue of sexualized violence by encouraging critical thinking about its root causes – gender expectations and stereotypes, imbalances and abuses of power, and the ongoing colonialism of the lands and the systems we live in. Project Respect facilitates workshops, training and social action groups to youth and adults throughout the year. Their website is www.yesmeansyes.com.
As an agency, we are committed to social change and ensuring that survivors of trauma receive timely and appropriate support and counselling. To this end we have regularly conducted training for other service providers including police departments, medical personnel, university residence advisors and staff and volunteers of other community agencies. We have also developed training curriculum for sexual assault counsellors and victim service workers that is used at the Justice Institute of BC and by some First Nations groups.
Our long history of community partnerships has led to the development of many innovative programs including a community based Sexual Assault Response Team and a province wide umbrella association for agencies in this field.
In 2012, VSAC started the process to become a trans inclusive agency. VSAC has opened up its services to be accessible to all members of the trans community. In 2013, we were granted 3-year funding from the Vancouver Foundation to create the Trans Inclusion Coordinator position. Their role was created to help inform, guide and facilitate these changes in consultation with trans advisory committee. As part of this process VSAC decided to change its name from the Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Centre to the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre to be more reflective of the people we serve.
We currently have a staff of 21 and more than fifty active volunteers.