A year ago, in the face of increased demands for service and crushing wait lists for supportive counselling to survivors of sexual assault, the Province of Ontario provided “$1 million in additional one-time funding to [42 community-based] sexual assault centres” across Ontario. At that time, the PC Government announced these resources under a commitment that “guarantees funding for victim services”, and categorized it under its overall plans to “make victim services more responsive”.
Despite this commitment ‒ and notwithstanding service demand for sexual violence support services that have not abated ‒ last week, the Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed its plan to end the $1 million in additional funding to sexual assault centres in Ontario.
With the $1 million in funding concluding, programs initiated by sexual assault centres in 2019 to address service demands and wait-lists will also come to an end in communities across Ontario.
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) receives this information with much concern, sharing support-seekers’ frustrations with wait-times and lack of resources. It is our position that no survivor of violence should ever face a wait for services, including face to face counselling. But operating with modest funding allotments ‒ and a clear lack of commitment from government on the issue of sexual violence ‒ has left sexual assault centres to cope with resources that are limited and, since 2019, decreasing. These services operate amidst steadily increasing demands for sexual assault support services that have not decreased or stabilized over the last year.
Ontario sexual assault centres are doing their
best to address wait-times for services to sexual violence survivors in
Ontario. Notwithstanding, many outside pressures exist:
- With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in recent years, community-based sexual assault centres have seen a significant upswing in calls and requests for support. In one year alone, Ontario’s sexual assault centres responded to over 50,000 crisis line calls —up from 30,000 recorded in 2009.
- A survey of our member centres (Anglophone sexual assault centres only) in June 2019 and again in February 2020 also saw these heightened numbers.
- Statistics Canada released its findings of Incident-based crime statistics in Canada in September 2019. In these statistics – and aligning with our experiences –sexual assault in Ontario rose from 7,434 police-reported incidences in 2016 and 8,782 in 2017 to 10,634 in 2018 —revealing a year over year increase of almost 19%.
- If you think this increase is significant, remember that not all sexual assault incidences are even captured: the Incident-based crime statistics draws on data on police reported crimes in Canada. As many sexual violence survivors choose not to engage in the criminal justice system, this means that the prevalence of sexual violence incidents is in fact higher than the Incident-based crime statistics show, because most incidences are never reported.
- In 2019, the Ontario government announced changes to the Victim Quick Response Program + (VQRP+), and the wind-down of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB). CICB recognized the pain and suffering experienced by victims of sexual crimes, including childhood sexual abuse survivors, and provided compensation that could be used towards their healing. In September 2019, CICB came to an end—eliminating one more support option available to survivors of sexual violence, and increasing service demands to community-based sexual assault centres.
We also know that the most efficient way to end violence is to
stop it before it even starts: money invested in prevention education is money
saved in policing, health and social services. While it is true that in one year Ontario
sexual assault centres took over 50,000 crisis line calls and supported over
17,000 survivors of sexual violence, we also provided over 3000 violence
prevention events for youth, families, professionals and community groups.
Community-based sexual assault centres
have constructively leveraged modest resources for many years. We have also have
worked to create services that directly respond to local demographics, service
pressures and barriers to supports. For example, sexual assault centres used the
$1 million in additional funding in 2019 to create services aimed at reducing wait-times,
implementing programs such as walk-in services
and group counselling programs, and by hiring additional counselling staff.
With the $1 million in funding (2019) ending,
these programs will also likely come to an close. The reduction in resources
will have a concrete impact on local communities. For example:
- These funds reduced the wait time for counselling at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre from 18 months to 6 months. Toronto Rape Crisis Centre also ran four survivor support groups, which serve 48 survivors of sexual violence a year. The end of these funds will mean an end to these groups, and an increase in wait times for counselling
- The funding allowed the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston to provide individual counselling to an additional 40 survivors in one year. The centre also reduced its wait times for counselling from 8 weeks wait to two weeks
- Timmins & Area Women In Crisis utilized the funding to hire an additional half-time counsellor, serving survivors of sexual violence in remote and northern communities. The end of these funds will result in a reduction in counselling services for this particularly under-serviced community
- Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre utilized the funding for a part-time counselling position and to run two groups a year
- Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton will lose one counsellor carrying a caseload of 60 survivors and a group program for 20 women upon the close of this funding. The centre anticipates that wait times for individual counselling will increase from 5 months to a 10-month wait
- Muskoka-Parry Sound Sexual Assault Centre utilized the funding to run a 12-week ongoing psycho-educational group for women who have experienced sexual violence. The group was accessed by more than 65 women this year. With the end of this funding and the group, the wait for counselling at this centre will be over one year
Without investment in front-line
community-based sexual violence services, the pressures on resources have clear
impacts on our communities. Limited resources mean less for Ontario victims of
crime. When services aren’t provided in a timely
and supportive way, sexual violence survivors are often forced to turn to more
costly services such as emergency rooms or family doctors.
Despite these realities, this
week Ontario sexual assault centres saw yet another reduction
in resources from the current government.
We believe that sexual violence support services are a necessary investment—one that is timely, relevant and life-changing to many Ontarians. We are well aware that sexual violence takes a significant economic and human toll on everything —from our economy to our criminal justice sector, to our health care system, to the safety of those in our communities. We call on the Ministry of the Attorney General to recognize the specialized services of sexual assault centres across this province, and their work in addressing victim services in partnership with justice and healthcare, education and child welfare.
look forward to we look forward to working with government to ensure that sexual
violence services meet the increasing demands, and to improve the lives of
survivors of sexual violence in Ontario.
 Ministry of the Attorney General. February 26, 2019. News Release: Ontario Guarantees Funding for Victim Services Announces comprehensive review to make victim services more responsive and easier to navigate. Online: https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2019/02/ontario-guarantees-funding-for-victim-services.html
 Ministry of the
Attorney General, 2016
 Statistics Canada. Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, Canada, provinces, territories and Census Metropolitan Areas. Data release – July 22, 2019. Online: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3510017701&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.16&pickMembers%5B1%5D=2.16
 The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), in co-operation with police, collects police-reported crime statistics through the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR). The UCR Survey was designed to measure the incidence of crime in Canada: see this link for more.
 Patel, A. October 30, 2014. for Huffington Post Canada. 460,000 Sexual Assaults In Canada Every Year: YWCA Canada. Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/30/sexual-assault-canada_n_6074994.html
to Canadian research, just 33 out of every 1,000 sexual assault cases are
reported to the police, and just 29
are actually recorded as a crime. While it is important that sexual assault
survivors have access to the legal system, these survivors of crime also need
alternative supports. Community-based agencies such as shelters and sexual
assault centres are uniquely positioned to support them.
 Ministry of the Attorney General (Ontario). Ontario Providing New Supports to Victims of Crime Government making system faster and easier to navigate. Online: September 6, 2019.
 This information was
compiled by Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, with data provided by
member centres in 2019.
 Women’s Support Network of York Region. Walk-in counselling available every Thursday starting July 11th, 2019. Online: https://womenssupportnetwork.ca/services/
 In March 2018, the previous government launched a strategy which would see a significant increase in funding for Ontario sexual assault centres. At that time, the government — and sexual violence support service providers alike – lauded the plan, which aimed to help survivors of sexual violence “get the support they need, when they need it”. Despite this commitment, under the PC government, that funding increase never became reality. The 2018 funding commitment (announced but never realized) would have seen approximately 30% increase in funding over 3 years for the overall sexual violence support sector.