A topic that is often uncomfortable to read and talk about is sexual violence, but that is the focus of this column.
We are so pleased to announce that counselling for St. Albert residents who have experienced sexual assault, sexual abuse or exploitation is now available in St. Albert. Fees are charged on a sliding fee scale for adults and children four years and up. With that said, no one is denied supports based on income alone. Counselling services are also available to caregivers and supporters of those who have experienced sexual violence, as this is recognized as an important piece for recovery as a family. We are delighted to introduce a new and very positive partnership with Saffron — a Sherwood Park agency who provides counselling for victims of sexual violence. Through our agreement, Saffron will provide two counsellors for 1.5 days per week in St. Albert. Financial support for this service was made available through a City of St. Albert grant along with a very generous donation from the St. Albert Community Foundation.
I have frequently written about exceptionally high level of collaboration among the social serving agencies in the city. It was through this collaborative approach that this service was realized. In 2021, some agencies in the city started meeting about how to better respond to both domestic and sexual violence in St. Albert. The result of these meetings was the establishment of the St. Albert Domestic and Sexual Violence CommunityResponse Committee. Members include representatives from St. Albert FCSS, S.A.I.F. (Stop Abuse in Families), School Divisions, St. Albert Family Resource Centre, St. Albert Victims Services and R.C.M.P., St. Albert Sturgeon Primary Care Network, St. Albert Probation, Bent Arrow, Alberta Works, Jessie’s Houseand the St. Albert Community Village.
As the committee was confident that domestic violence is being well looked after by SAIF, a subcommittee was struck to focus specifically on sexual violenceand advocacy. Information was brought to the table outlining the challenges victims were having trying to get timely counselling. At that time, victims of sexual violence were waiting up to 18 months (now reduced to 14 months) to access counselling in Edmonton. The committee agreed that was not acceptable and started looking into how to bring dedicated counsellors directly to St. Albert. Presently, in addition to in-person appointments, Saffron also offers on-line counselling which reduces the barrier of childcare for some clients and transportation issues for others.
There is no time requirement with regard to accessing counselling support. Some victims of sexual violence hesitate to come forward because they feel their experience is historical. We want to emphasize that anyone can come forward to request counselling at any time – it doesn’t matter how long ago it happened.
If you, or someone you know, has experienced sexual assault, abuse or exploitation please call SAFFRON Centre, at 780-499-0900. If needed, organizations can contact the Family & Community Support Service Community Support Worker at 780-459-1756 or [email protected] to talk about counselling needs.