BRENDA SCHROEDER/Independent reporter
Heartland Victim Services Unit held its annual general meeting on May 18th. Attendance was composed mostly of current members.
In coordinator Pat Hamilton’s update, she spoke about the fact that last summer was busy in Bashaw, with much of the coverage of Victim Services going to this community. Since January, Bashaw and district has had their own Victim Services Unit. It was expected that this would lower the file numbers for Heartland Victim Services.
Hamilton said that last year there were 46 cases, including Bashaw. As of May 25, the unit has had 71 cases already this year with 90 per cent of those being domestic violence and sexual assault incidents.
“We had a heck of May long weekend. We had four crisis calls. We’re very busy,” said Hamilton.
When asked for her thoughts on the increase, King said she is seeing RCMP members and advocates of Victim Services playing a stronger role in referring people to the unit.
People can come directly to victim services for help without going through the RCMP.
Hamilton is quick to point out that the terms of domestic violence and sexual assault cover many offences.
“Family violence includes, say a situation where people have never been married or never lived together, but they’ve had a relationship and there is a child in common. Even sometimes a dating relationship will f t in that category. It covers the children in the relationship,” said Hamilton.
“It’s the same with sexual assault. When people hear it they think of a rape. It actually covers anything from inappropriate touching or fondling all the way through to aggravated rape and things like that.”
Heartland Victim Services has received confirmation of a grant from the Solicitor General, which will ensure their operating costs and basic expenses are covered for the next 3 years.
“We’ll get $45,000 the first year, $48,000 the second and $52,000 for the third,” said Hamilton.
This grant doesn’t cover any costs that arise from individual cases and so some fundraising must be done.
The unit is in the middle of planning a Motorbike Rally and Classic Car Rally for June 25, and will run the gate at the upcoming two- day shoot-out held at Stettler airport in July.
Heartland Victim Services could use the support of more board members, which is a small time commitment of about 10 meetings a year with a focus on the small amount of fundraising that must be done locally.
“We could use three more board members. We’ve got 8 or 9 board members,” said Hamilton.
The meeting resulted in a new board member coming forward and also one new advocate.