A new province-wide talk/text/chat communication service has been launched to help survivors of sexual violence.
Several communities across the province, including Stettler, held their own events to mark the start-up of One Line for Sexual Violence.
One Line is a first-response platform that connects survivors to local and regional services, officials say.
The number is 1-866-403-8000.
Alberta’s #IBelieveYou campaign and the #MeToo movement have dramatically increased demand for sexual assault services, noted a release.
“We have seen our intakes and demands for service more than double in the past two years, and in some areas, even as high as a six-fold increase,” said Stephanie Hadley, executive director of the Stettler-based Association of Communities Against Abuse (ACAA).
“Because we are serving a very big rural area, (more than 50 communities), there can often be significant barriers to service such as transportation and financial needs. It’s not always easy for people to have the access to the services that that need.
“Having the provincial ‘One Line’ will allow people a direct call, text or chat to immediately be connected with us and the services that we provide in this area,” she said. “This will help to raise awareness and shorten the time for survivors to find specialized support and counselling, and to begin their journey towards healing,” she said.
“Stettler is our central office, but we do serve all of East-Central Alberta. The way that we are tied into this initiative, is that we are one of the member agencies of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.
“There are 13 sexual assault service providers in the province, and we are one of them. We do a lot of work collectively, and that trickles down into each of our designated areas that we serve,” she said.
“It’s just a great way for people to connect. It’s anonymous, and it can be accessed at almost any time day or night,” she said. “The provincial One Line is also linked to the ‘211’ number which has information about the entire province,” she added.
“When somebody calls in, they receive that initial support and then following that, the person on the other end of the line could also provide them with information about what they do, and let them know that we are the contact in this area,” she said, adding that the folks on the other end of the line are trained volunteers or staff from those various sexual assault centres including Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.
Based on a successful pilot out of Central Alberta Sexual Assault Centre in Red Deer, text and chat is a highly effective means of initial support, officials say.
“We’ve known for years that people are most likely to reach out to friends and family after experiencing sexual violence. When they’re ready, One Line is the next step,” said Deb Tomlinson, CEO of Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS), which has developed the platform in partnership with the Government of Alberta, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.
“This technology provides access, control, anonymity, and psychological safety for survivors that makes it easier for them to reach out.
”We want survivors to know: we believe you; it’s not your fault and when you’re ready, help is only a smart-phone away.”
Support will be available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week with access to interpretation services in over 200 languages.
“We don’t know how much this talk-text-chat technology will increase call volumes, but based on similar crisis response lines in other jurisdictions, we could easily double our current volumes of care,” Tomlinson said.
Moving forward, the service will be promoted through a digital campaign called #ArmsOpen featuring real Albertans sending a message of love and support to survivors.
“Participants will post images of themselves with #ArmsOpen in front of their community welcome-signs to illustrate that support for survivors is available to everyone, and, no matter where you live across Alberta, ‘Our arms are open’.
For more information, check out www.aasas.ca.