The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre remains open 24/7 amid the COVID-19 outbreak. (Victoria Sexual Assault Centre)

Victoria Sexual Assault Centre remains open for survivors through COVID-19 pandemic

Times of crisis can lead to increase in domestic violence, board of director member says

The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC), which operates a multi-service clinic for survivors, remains open 24/7 amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our commitment to our clients, colleagues, and communities that we serve is of the highest priority,” said VSAC executive director Elijah Zimmerman in a written statement on March 17.

VSAC has taken precautions to protect staff, volunteers and survivors from COVID-19 by doubling down on cleaning, shifting some care to the phone and closing the office to drop-ins, Zimmerman said.

READ ALSO: More than 400 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths in B.C.

Grace Lore, a political science professor at the University of Victoria, has worked with the VSAC clinic for years and now serves on the board of directors.

VSAC’s clinic model is one of a kind in Canada and will continue to provide trauma-informed care to sexual assault survivors through the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. “The care folks need in the aftermath is still available.”

The clinic helps survivors outside the hospitals – unless it’s necessary – and police stations which is especially important now as hospitals focus on patients with COVID-19, Lore explained.

She emphasized the importance of spreading the word about VSAC remaining open so that survivors of sexual assault in the Capital Regional District know that help is just a phone call away even during the pandemic. Times of economic downturn and societal stress often lead to an increase in domestic violence which is why VSAC needs to remain open, Lore said.

READ ALSO: Court shutdown could threaten safe confinement and fair trials: B.C. defence lawyer

Folks seeking care can call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888 and they will page the Sexual Assault Response Team who are working 24/7, she explained.

While many services are remote for now, the immediate care is still available in person without needing to go to the hospital or the police station, Lore said.

For those assaulted in the last seven days, VSAC is able to provide medical care, assessments by forensic nurses, police reporting, medication for sexually transmitted diseases and any other assistance required in a quiet, calm, confidential, trauma-informed manner, she explained. Anyone who’s been assaulted in the last 30 days can access support and counselling over the phone.

READ ALSO: ‘Different than anything we’ve ever seen’: How B.C. paramedics are responding to COVID-19

Lore pointed out that survivors should call even if they’re in quarantine, self-isolating or have COVID-19 as someone will walk them through the process and find a way to provide care safely.

VSAC is located at 201-3060 Cedar Hill Road and can be reached at the service line at 250-383-3232 or through the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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