A group of women's shelters have commissioned a study to measure sexual abuse — and in particular incest — in the eastern Ontario region of Prescott-Russell.

The Prescott-Russell coalition for the elimination of violence against women has commissioned University of Ottawa researchers to look at the reported incidents in their region and then report back later this month.

Louise — a Franco-Ontarian woman whose real name we are not using to protect her identity — told Radio-Canada she had been sexually abused by her father since the age of eight, and only spoke out when she found out one of her own daughters had also become a victim of her father.

She said after he was arrested, she realized she had been living with rage all of these years.

Anne Jutras, who works with a women's shelter based in Casselman, Ont., says there have been many stories like Louise’s in Prescott-Russell.

She hopes research will support that claim by comparing the area east of Ottawa  to other regions and in turn this will help increase funding for services from the Ontario government.

"If we have the numbers to support that then we'll be able to have more impact in our request for more services for incest survivors," said Jutras.

Report will also look at rural challenges

About a year and half ago Ontario Province Police in the region began offering one such service — aiding victims in these cases by helping them get to and from court during the legal process.

Det. Const. Ken Gray with the Hawkesbury detachment said they hope their role can help reduce at least one of the barriers for victims.

"Coming forward is such a tremendous step forward but a daunting one at the same time. Most have never dealt with police or court system," he said.

The mostly rural region is one of the poorest in Ontario, and includes communities like Casselman, Hawkesbury and Rockland. The report will also highlight some of the problems facing victims in rural communities.

For instance, the coalition says once someone actually has the courage to speak out, that person may have to drive as far as 80 kilometres to meet with a counsellor.