N.L. sexual assault crisis hotline sees large increase in calls this year
Nearly 200 more calls in 10 months of 2017 than all of last year
Janet Lee and her team of volunteers have been busy this year, helping sexual assault victims and their families and even talking some down from suicide.
The Newfoundland Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre has seen an increase in calls in just 10 months of 2017, as compared to totals from 2016.
So far this year, they've dealt with 748 crisis-related calls. In all of 2016, they handled 587 calls.
"There's certainly been a significant increase," Lee told CBC's Here & Now. "As the numbers of calls increase, so do the needs of the centre."
The centre consists of more than 65 volunteers who monitor phone lines all hours of the day. Anyone affected by sexual violence — survivors or family and friends — can call in and share their experience.
The volunteers are also trained in suicide intervention, due to the devastating circumstances that lead many people to phoning in.
Lee said there has also been an increase in calls that are not just "crisis-related," but people in a dire crisis mode.
Some of those people are in need of immediate medical attention, or may be calling from an unsafe environment. Volunteers sometimes need to be talk crisis callers out of taking their own lives.
Her interview came on the same day a worldwide awareness campaign went viral on social media. People who suffered sexual violence or harassment set their Facebook statuses, or sent out a tweet, with the words "#MeToo."
It's never your fault
Lee says many of the callers they deal with want to talk through their intense feelings of self-blame, guilt and shame.
No matter how dire the situation is, there is always one consistent message for a person who calls in.
"If you've experienced sexual violence, it is absolutely not your fault," she said. "I think that's a message that cannot be shared enough."
It's my hope people are more comfortable reaching out.- Janet Lee, program director
The centre has been running for four decades in Newfoundland and Labrador, and while Lee hopes they will someday no longer be needed, she vows to be there while there is a growing demand.
"The centre has been around for 40 years, and we were probably needed before that and I think we'll be needed a long time into the future," she said.
While the phone line is ringing more often, she hopes it isn't because sexual violence is growing in the province.
"It's my hope that more people are comfortable reaching out," she said. "We also encourage people to call us back, so it's also my hope that folks are finding support and comfort through our incredible volunteers."
The Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre is hosting a fundraiser at Clovelly Golf on Friday evening, October 20th.