September 12, 2016 - 1:00 PM
KAMLOOPS - A new sexual assault response team is starting up in Kamloops.
The Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre is currently seeking volunteers for the new team, which will help sexual assault survivors immediately after an assault, agency coordinator Charlene Eden says.
“It provides immediate support to survivors of sexual assault,” Eden says. “We can send a volunteer or two to sit with person in hospital and make sure they get connected to resources.”
She says a lot of sexual assault survivors don’t get immediate help after being assaulted and can miss out on essential resources. With the team in place, they can be guided right into programs to help start the healing process immediately.
The agency is looking for a diverse group of people to help cover as many cultural and socio-economic groups as possible.
“We know sexual violence happens in every community and we really appreciate the support of the community in this team,” Eden says.
Ideally volunteers will have some previous experience with victim support. Applicants will go through an interview process and need a criminal background check. Starting this fall, the agency will hold a 12-week training course with sessions at least once a week to prepare people for the new role.
Kamloops had a team back in the early 2000s but it disappeared when funding dried up.
“When (the centre’s) team disappeared years ago due to funding, we knew there was still a need,” she says.
Eden volunteered with that team and when she was hired as the new agency coordinator they looked to resurrect the team. She has found support across the community, as the agency is working closely with Royal Inland Hospital, along with other social agencies and community partners.
A grant from the city’s Social Planning Council has been essential to getting the project going, she says.
“I think the province is trying to do a bit more of a better job of in regards to funding,” she says. “There is a benefit to having a program like this run through an organization like us.”
The team should be active early next year. While the first training session is this fall, Eden expects to hold another in early 2017 for new volunteers. For now it’ll be a volunteer system as the centre can’t afford to staff a team.
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