Sexual assault response team finally returns to Royal Inland Hospital | Kamloops News | iNFOnews

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Sexual assault response team finally returns to Royal Inland Hospital

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
August 08, 2017 - 10:46 AM

KAMLOOPS - After a 13-year hiatus, the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre has the funding it needs to deliver an important community service to sexual assault survivors.

Charlene Eden is the centre’s agency coordinator and says when funding across the province was cut for crisis services more than a decade ago, it was a hard pill to swallow for the centre’s sexual assault response team.

“As a volunteer years ago on that team prior to it being cut, I can tell you that with the impact that that team has had historically, it was a huge loss,” Eden says. “It took away that capacity to have that initial connection between a survivor and the community resources.”

Eden says the team plays a big role in allowing those who have been sexually assaulted to start their healing process immediately. When a survivor attends Royal Inland Hospital after an assault, they’ll once again be given the option of getting support from a two-person response team.

Eden says the team will wait with the patient for a rape kit procedure and will tell them what they can expect during the exam, and potentially from RCMP afterward.

“They will sit with the survivor while they wait for the doctors and or the nurses,” Eden says. “There’s an actual specialized team of doctors who provide service for sexual assault response… We can sit there with them and provide emotional support if they’d like.”

Outside resources like counselling or victim services will also be offered to the patient. Eden says this is a big part of starting the healing process immediately, which can help address and treat long-term impacts from the assault.

“Being able to put that face-to-face connection to an organization and helping to connect them immediately to us or other organizations in the community that start that healing process has a huge impact on the healing process in a positive way,” Eden says. “That recognition that there are community resources out there who are willing to support and ready to support, it’s going to make a difference, we know that.”

Eden says when people know there are support services in place aimed at helping treat them after an assault, it could give people more courage to come forward after an incident.

The Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre works with people 13 years old and older. When someone has been sexually assaulted and goes to Royal Inland Hospital, it will be up to them to decide whether or not they want the sexual assault response team to attend. Eden says patients can change their mind at any point.

One of the reasons the centre sends a team of two is to also provide support to any family or friends who may have attended with the person affected.

“Our goal is to support any family members or friends who show up at the hospital with a survivor,” Eden says. “It’s tough on everyone involved.”

Eden has been the centre’s agency coordinator for two years and ever since she started in her position, she and other members at the centre have been fighting for funding to re-implement the team which has been on hiatus for 13 years.

The centre applied for the City of Kamloops’s social planning council grant and received $10,000 last year, along with another $10,000 this year. The centre will have to reapply yearly for the grant. Since receiving the money, along with an undisclosed amount from United Way, the centre has been able to start training volunteers and got the team back up and running the weekend of July 7.

“We are really trying to step up so that survivors understand that we’re really on their side, we believe them and we want to help them move forward,” Eden says. “It’s really important to not sit in the trauma, and a lot of times people are worried that they won’t be believed but we believe people. If they walk in the door and say this has happened, we’re going to believe them.”

The centre is looking for more volunteers right now who are dedicated and passionate about helping people in this situation. If you want to apply to be a volunteer, go here or call Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre at 250-372-0179.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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