Sexual assault calls triple to Fredericton centre

The Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre is seeking more volunteers to help with its workload after seeing its call volume triple since January.

Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre needs more volunteers, program co-ordinator says

Jen Gorham, program co-ordinator for the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre, says volunteers become troubled by the stories they hear. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC )

After calls to its support line tripled this year, the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre is seeking more volunteers to respond.

Jen Gorham, the program co-ordinator for the centre, said she thinks several factors have brought more calls, but mostly they're the result of referrals from other service providers and agencies.

Historically, the centre receives about 100 to 120 calls a year but has seen three times that number since the beginning of the year, Gorham said. 

She couldn't say whether it may be the result of an increase in sexual assaults in the city but said there is definitely more public awareness of the issue.

"It's definitely kind of in the ether," she told Information Morning Fredericton. "And I think that you've also seen an erosion of the stigma of sexual violence."

Volunteers feel the pressure 

The centre gets a number of calls from people who just need someone to talk to, and others from people looking for resources.

The centre has also seen an increase in calls from people dealing with significant mental health or physical challenges as a result of being sexually assaulted, she said.

Because calls have gone up, volunteers are starting to feel additional pressure and more of what Gorham calls "vicarious trauma."

Vicarious trauma, she said, is the idea that a person exposed to someone else's trauma can experience comparable responses.

This can manifest in the form of nightmares, increased anxiety and even depression, she said.

"This type of work has impacts, so we want to make sure we're taking care of people doing this work," she said.

Rigorous training 

Volunteers at the centre go through about two months of training before they're on the front line.

They are also required to provided references and go through a criminal record check.

After a volunteer is interviewed, the training process begins.

"That can be screening itself, as they realize what they're in for," Gorham said.

Most of the centre's volunteers are university students, as it gives them front-line experience working with people in crisis, Gorham said.

In addition to taking shifts on the centre's support line, volunteers may at times accompany those who have been sexually assaulted to the hospital or police station. 

Those interested in volunteering can go to the centre's website or call their office's business line at 506-454-0460.


Information Morning Fredericton