British Columbia

Victoria Sexual Assault Centre discontinues crisis hotline after 35 years

The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre has shut down its crisis and information hotline, as a result of lack of funding.

Financial situation, demand for other services cause for closure

Anyone looking to access emotional support over the phone is now being asked to contact the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888. (Victoria Sexual Assault Centre)

On Thursday, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC) announced it has shut down its crisis and information hotline, as a result of lack of funding.

Core funding for the crisis hotline was cut nearly 20 years ago, but it managed to continue operating on donations. Now, the need for increased capacity in other parts of the centre means the crisis line must shut down entirely.

"It's an important piece," VSAC manager of direct client services Linda Amy told CBC.

"It's a big loss for the community and it wasn't an easy decision."

The line, which fields up to 1,800 calls a year and is used primarily for emotional support during day-time hours, has been in operation since the centre was established in 1982.

As technology advanced, it incorporated text messaging and email options so people could get access to services and emotional support in whichever way suited their needs.

Amy said the #MeToo campaign has had a significant impact on the number of people accessing services at VSAC; some services at the centre have up to a year-long waiting list.

Funds that have historically been designated for operating the hotline will now be used to help get people into programs and services quicker.

"Talking to somebody on the crisis line is important, but if they're wanting to access service and not [be] held on an extended wait, we need to look across the board, where do those resources need to be allocated," said Amy.

"To keep folks waiting is not acceptable."

The centre will still offer counselling, support groups and other forms of face-to-face victim support, and its clinic will still be in operation.

Those seeking emotional support by phone are being asked to contact the Vancouver Island Crisis Line.

Though operators are not trained specifically to deal with sexualized violence-related calls, Amy said VSAC is coordinating a training program so the Vancouver Island Crisis Society can better handle those type of calls.

With files from Deborah Wilson.