If you have been sexually assaulted, there is help and support for you.
The Shuswap Area Sexual Assault Committee wants people to know medical and emotional help is available, with or without police involvement.
Colleen Making, co-ordinator of the Children Who Witness Abuse program, belongs to the committee that is a collaboration of members of the SAFE Society and Shuswap Lake General Hospital.
“We have clients who, long after the fact, will start talking about their traumas. It turns out they have had sexual abuse,” she says, explaining that people may feel they can’t access help unless they go to the police, and tourists may decide to wait until they get home to access help.
“All of us (on the committee) work with disclosures of sexual abuse… People are afraid of being judged, the stigmas, what were you wearing, what did you do to provoke it, those old stereotypes. We’re just saying, how can we help you?”
Making says hospital statistics will show that sexual assaults don’t happen very often, yet other agencies will deal with them frequently.
“These are the kinds of things that worry us. We hear it’s happening, but there seems to be a gap, how people are accessing services and where they’re getting support emotionally and physically.”
She says people may be afraid to report a rape to police for a variety of reasons, including the fact that sexual assault is often carried out by a family member. Even if a victim doesn’t wish to report the crime, they should still access help. Instead of getting help, victims will go to a hospital and not disclose they’ve been assaulted, or go to a pharmacy and get the morning-after pill.
To help increase awareness of sexual assault and to make health-care services more accessible for victims of sexual assault, the committee will be distributing posters and information brochures throughout the Shuswap. The campaign will officially be launched on Aug. 17 as visitors begin arriving for the Roots and Blues Festival.
“It (the campaign) is not exclusive to the Roots and Blues,” says Making, “but because we have such a large population who are tourists – sometimes people wait till they get home to get help.”
Statistics Canada states that in B.C., there are more than 1,000 physical or sexual assaults against women every week.