Ottawa

Rape Crisis Centre struggling to keep up with #MeToo surge

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) is being overwhelmed with calls from sexual abuse survivors in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but its executive director says the centre's funding hasn't kept pace with the demand.

35% spike in calls from sexual abuse vicitms 'almost overnight,' executive director of Ottawa centre says

Sunny Marriner is executive director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) is being overwhelmed with calls from sexual abuse survivors in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but its executive director says the centre's funding hasn't kept pace with the demand.

"Our services have been funded at approximately the same levels for probably 15 to 20 years, so right now today at ORCC we have the same number of counsellors that we had 15 years ago. So that's certainly creating a lot of pressures and a lot of problems," Sunny Marriner told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday.

The crisis centre is scheduling more appointments and stepping up training for a rotating cast of crisis phone line volunteers, but it's been "a whole lot of speedy patchwork trying to get things in place," Marriner said.

"People burn out faster. We used to have folks that worked the crisis line for five years, and now they work it for eight months. So we really see the pressures that are placed on people when they're putting out so much.

"Really, what people need is somebody to talk to over a period of time, and that's where the biggest challenges are."

Steady increase since Ghomeshi case

Marriner, who has been working in the field for more than 20 years, said the steady increase in calls started in 2014 when sexual assault charges were laid against former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi (he was acquitted in 2016), and the #BeenRapedNeverReported movement took off on social media.

"We have seen a cumulative increase that has just, it's been non-stop. It hasn't really dropped," Marriner said.

Then, in September and October 2017, the #MeToo movement started gaining momentum. "And it was a 35 per cent increase almost overnight over those two months," she said.

But when victims call the centre, they don't bring up those movements specifically.

"I think what we hear much more often is a reference to the climate that we have right now. There has been more discussion about sexual assault and sexual violence. It's pretty much non-stop, day in, day out ... and that is certainly having an impact for survivors in the community and for people who never really thought of reaching out before who now feel that there's a moment in time where they can speak," Marriner said.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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