Drastic increase in sexual assault calls overwhelms help centre in Quebec
Published Thursday, December 21, 2017 6:46PM EST
A centre for assault victims in Quebec City has received so many requests for help in 2017 that it can no longer deal with women as they call.
Instead it is placing their names on waiting lists, and telling them they will have to wait until someone is available in the days to come.
Julie Tremblay, general manager of Viol-Secours, said it's absolutely devastating.
"We can't meet them immediately and it's so hard, it tears us apart," she said.
The sexual assault help centre normally takes phone calls from those who have been sexually assaulted, then follows up in person with those who need it.
"It's hard for women because on one hand we tell them to speak out, to seek help, and to learn about preventing [sexual assault], but on the other hand when they're ready to come forward we are not capable of helping them because we don't have the financial resources to do so," said Tremblay.
She said the sea change came this year when celebrities began being denounced for sexual assault.
"There's a direct impact. As soon as the denunciations hit the press, became public, immediately we saw an increase in demand for our services," said Tremblay.
Help is on the way.
In the fall the Quebec government announced it would provide additional funding over several years.
Viol-Secours is getting $55,000 that it will use to hire one more staffperson in January.
Meanwhile the Sureté du Quebec is going to re-evaluate sexual assault cases that were determined to be unfounded with advocacy groups helping oversee the process.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux hopes other police forces will do the same.
"We will share from that experience with all police services throughout the province and I hope that this good idea will spread," said Coiteux.
Tremblay is encouraged by the change in attitude from the provincial government and other authorities.
But she is still hoping that women who have found the courage to make accusations are willing to be patient a little while longer.