The Battlefords & Area Sexual Assault Centre is providing a new safe space for victims to come forward and share their story.
The centre and Battlefords RCMP worked in partnership to build a more welcoming interview room inside of the centre for victims of sexual assault or abuse. The idea first came to Executive Director Amber Stewart after seeing the interview room inside the RCMP building. She says the room wasn’t too inviting and started making plans for the renovations in August.
“RCMP supplied all of the technology that was needed which have been installed. We have new furniture in there and therapeutic tools for RCMP that are doing forensic exams with children. It’s my favourite place in the office. It’s so warm and inviting which was the goal.”
She says she took some inspiration from the Little Bear Advocacy Centre inside of the Lloydminster Sexual Assault Services Building. The centre is located at 1211-98 Street in a residential neighbourhood. Stewart says their location is another factor that could help to destress victims as some may not be comfortable telling their stories in a police-like environment.
Instead of heading to the detachment building, officers will escort victims to the centre where there will be a counselor present as well as other staff to help supervise children. She adds their centre will also be able to provide direct support to the victims.
“We can provide a more therapeutic emotionally, mentally safe environment for people to come forward and give their statements. A statement can be taken multiple times from sexual assault survivors and having the ability to come to our office and provide a video statement. We have trauma trained counsellors to support them before and after. We’re hopeful that we can take maybe a little of the barriers and trauma off of these victims as they tell their story over and over again.”
She and Staff Sgt. Jason Teniuk hopes the space will help break down barriers between the community and the RCMP.
“Our job is the healing journey that survivors are on and being a support for them but the crown and the RCMP they have to work on the other side of things. It’s something we’re excited about, the true partnership with us and the RCMP.”
Stewart notes they have seen an increase in demand for their services since the beginning of the pandemic. She says one-on-one counselling hasn’t stopped as they provided virtual services throughout the year. However, their educational prevention services were hampered and the organization pivoted from in-class and in-person sessions to podcasts and videos as an alternative way to implement those educational aspects.
The latest figures from Saskatchewan RCMP show there were 3,711 victims of intimate partner violence reported from January to September 2020. Of those, 2,529 resulted in charges.