Clinic intake stalled, some students not affected

Due to a lack of funds, Sexual Violence New Brunswick will no longer be accepting new requests for individual counselling. That means the centre won’t be putting any new names on the waitlist.

Lorraine Whalley, executive director of SVNB, said despite the centre’s inability to take in new clients, post-secondary students will still be able to receive counselling for sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and other related support.

“We have counsellors that are on the post-secondary campuses,” she said.

The services established via the Campus Sexual Assault Support program in partnership with SVNB established in 2016 will address the needs of students attending the University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Community College and St. Thomas University. The program was established in partnership with SVNB, STU, UNB and NBCC.

There is one full-time Campus Sexual Assault Support Advocate (CSASA) available Monday to Friday during regular work hours, said Whalley. The CSASA is a registered counsellor specializing in sexual violence trauma.

Non-students or clients of SVNB counselling and those on the waitlist will still be served at its Fredericton location, the only centre for counselling SVNB has in the province.

According to a press release published by SVNB, the demand for counselling and support lines has tripled in recent years.

Whalley said this is due to the #MeToo Movement and larger conversations that have been happening about sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence in Canada, along with reports and the centre’s own public awareness initiatives.

“With the drastic increase in demand, we need to take measures to protect and stabilize our programs, while working towards more supports for survivors for sexual violence,” said Whalley.

According to Whalley, the centre currently serves 40 clients for individual counselling. An additional 10 are on the waitlist now and three more are waiting for intake appointments to get on the waitlist. Those 53 people will still be served. Whalley said typically clients have appointments every two weeks but it depends on their needs. They also offer support groups within the centre and around the province. SVNB offers counselling to everyone 16 and older.

Whalley said stopping the intake for clients was a difficult decision, but necessary.

“It’s, for us, not wanting to create that expectation that when someone comes in for their intake appointment that then we have to tell them, ‘Okay, we’re putting you on a waitlist and we don’t know how long that is.’ Whereas in the past, even though we had a waitlist, we were able to let them know, ‘Okay, it’s probably going to be four weeks or six weeks or a couple of months.’”

Their individual counselling program only receives funding from the United Way, said Whalley, which only permits them to fund one day of counselling. Whalley said with their current need of patients they would easily use 10 times the funding.

“What we’ve done over the years, we’ve used that funding plus supplemented that with donations, any fundraising, any fee for services, [or] funding that we would get. So we’ve gotten it to the level that we are right now, although that’s not sustainable because you don’t have that … sustained program funding.”

The centre is now in search for funding from other sources. Lack of funding is something they say is a “rising issue” for specialized sexual assault support services in the province and other places in Canada.

Whalley said they will be discussing with the provincial government among other sources to obtain funding. She said they’re looking to continue conversations with the relevant departments.

Valerie Kilfoil, spokesperson for the women’s equity branch in the New Brunswick government, said they are aware of the recent challenges faced by SVNB and will continue to work with them to find solutions.

She said the government provides a range of funding to SVNB for programs such as training for counselling at the centre and providing them with funds to deliver sexual assault crisis intervention training to government departments and community partners across the province.

STU’s Sexual Assault Prevention Committee and STU-based experts did not answer requests for an interview before print time.

Although Whalley said she isn’t sure when the centre’s waitlist will be opened up again, SVNB’s 24-hour support line is still open.

If you have experienced sexual violence or need to talk to someone, you can call (506) 454-0437.

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