Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society (ACAWS) will be recognizing Prevention of Violence Against Women week with several new programs and community presentations.
Port Alberni RCMP saw a 100 percent increase in domestic violence calls after the novel coronavirus pandemic was declared in 2020. In response, ACAWS has been working throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic, providing counselling, outreach, victim services and other supports to people throughout the community.
April 11 to April 17 is Prevention of Violence Against Women Week in British Columbia. Sarah Henshall, the Community-Based Victim Services Coordinator at ACAWS, has been holding several educational presentations in the community on topics such as sexual assault, criminal harassment and domestic violence.
ACAWS also has a window display of “Letters to Survivors” and is asking members of the community to drop off a letter of support to survivors of sexual assault. For more information, check the ACAWS – Alberni Community & Women’s Services Society Facebook page.
ACAWS also has a new program starting up, thanks to some provincial funding. The Sexual Assault Response Community Initiative (SARCI) advocates for sexual assault survivors and offers emotional support during times of crisis.
“We also inform [survivors] on their reporting options and connect them to other support services,” said SARCI coordinator Céline Sauvé. These supports include the ACAWS Community-Based Victim Services Program, the RCMP and the hospital. “A lot of communities have SARCI teams—what makes us different is we’re volunteer-based. We try to fill in whatever gaps we can.”
The provincial funding for this program lasts for two years, but Sauvé is hoping the program will be able to continue past those two years.
“It’s really needed,” she said. “There’s still a lot of stigma, a lot of stereotypes and beliefs that sometimes prevent people from reporting.”
Sauvé said that 13 volunteers have signed up so far, and training will begin within the next two weeks. Some of these volunteers are health-care workers, practicum students or survivors themselves.
Anyone who is interested in getting involved can reach out to ACAWS at 250-724-7111 or can check out the ACAWS website at www.acaws.ca.