In the wake of #MeToo, a Toronto legal clinic sees 'astronomical' jump in sexual assault help requests

Toronto's Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic says the number of request for sexual assault counselling have jumped by 83 per cent in the past year. Cinic's executive director says the "astronomical" jump reflects a larger shift in society.

The clinic has recorded an 83 per cent increase in request for sexual assault counselling

Amanda Dale is the executive director of Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

A Toronto legal clinic dedicated to fighting violence against women says a record number of women are seeking help for experiences with sexual assault.

Amanda Dale of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic says her staff have seen an 83 per cent increase in the number of requests for sexual assault counselling in the past year.

Over the last two years, the clinic has seen an 125 per cent increase for those services. Dale has been executive director for more than seven years. 

"It's been astronomical," said Dale on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

The number of requests may reflect a more prominent conversation around sexual violence and misconduct in "mainstream society," according to Dale. 

Those discussions and the fall out of sexual misconduct allegations have rocked the worlds of politics, sports and entertainment over the past months.

The shift has been highlighted by the rise of the #MeToo movement, in which women share personal stories to illustrate the widespread prevalence of sexual violence.

Dale likens the change to the feeling of being trapped in a dream and trying to call for help. People in that position are only now starting to step forward up in large numbers, she says.

"You wake up and you realize you've been screaming in your sleep and not making any noise," she said. "It has been like that for the last 30 years."

While requests for counselling have skyrocketed, Dale said the clinic's funding  — provided by the provincial government, The United Way and The Law Foundation of Ontario  — has not increased to meet the demand.