While it is a service which has been offered for the past few years, the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) and Sexual Assault Service Association (SASA) wants to now spread awareness as the service, recently, gained a more firm and sustainable footing.
“With support from Randy Delorey, [Antigonish] MLA, this past year, the specialized therapy program [for survivors of sexualized violence], at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, has become sustainable and permanent,” a release reads.
“This allows us to provide a broader set of services to more people in Antigonish and surrounding areas. The program has three specialized clinical therapists with extensive experience in recovery from sexualized violence, abuse and/or harassment.”
AWRC executive director Lucille Harper said having a “full contingent” of therapists now in place, is the main factor in spreading the message more loudly, at this time.
“It’s not that easy to find really qualified [therapists],” Harper said, talking to the Casket Nov. 21.
“First of all, there are not very many people in the province who are specialized in working in the area of sexualized violence trauma … it really is a specialty, particularly in rural areas.
“Service like mental health, everyone has to be a generalist. It’s like the RCMP, everyone is a generalist, so you don’t have people who are specifically trained in sexualized violence. So we’ve been really fortunate to be able to have here now, in Antigonish, very skilled and qualified therapists working in that area.
“So that’s where this is; ‘OK,’ now we can let the community know so people can come and find us. It has always been, ‘oh, we shouldn’t say too much because we can’t really accommodate.’ But now we’re at a place where we’re stable.”
One of those therapists is Pam Rubin [Nancy Gray and Elizabeth Fitzgerald are the others]. Rubin was part of the Nov. 21 interview and talked about this type of service being available in the HRM and survivors, from elsewhere in the province, having to travel to Halifax to access it.
“So Lucille and others have been working hard to make it available for Antigonish and surrounding areas and, at first, it was year-to-year funding and then, finally this year, with the support of the MLA, it has become a sustainable, permanent program,” Rubin said.
“That’s significant, as you can imagine, and especially significant for people who want to heal from sexual abuse.”
She noted a deadline on a therapist’s tenure, at the centre, making it difficult for the person seeking help.
“If someone is here for, maybe, a year, and you come into the centre in the last two months of their year, are you really going to open up that can of worms which might take a year’s worth of therapy to start healing from? No, you’re not going to do that,” Rubin said.
“So the year-to-year funding can have a chilling effect on the usage of the program, even though the usage was fairly high to begin with. But, there were still others being excluded because they’re not going to open up unless they know they have a full course of therapy open to them.
“So now, where it’s permanent, ongoing, sustainable, we can offer that.”
Harper talked about the service being available on the contingency level for about five years.
“We started off with grant-based project funding probably five years ago – 2012,” she said. “So there have been bits here and there, and we’ve managed to, kind of, keep it going. But it has taken that long for it to be ongoing, sustained funding … a sustainable program.”
The release notes the service is available to all genders.
“Women, men, trans, and gender non-binary persons ages 16-plus years, who have been impacted by sexualized violence, abuse or harassment, as children or adults,” it reads.
“The specialized therapy program is also available for young women, aged 16 to 21, who are identified as ‘at risk’ and requiring woman-centred support. We offer information and support sessions for those who would like to know more about supporting someone they care about who has been the target of sexualized violence.
“We have developed a unique, respected, rural program that provides a full set of therapeutic services. This can be a model for other rural parts of the province.”
Rubin noted, generally, people access the services by self-referral.
“So anyone who is interested in the program can call and you can talk to a counselor and have your questions answered about the program,” she said.
“And, typically, in that first conversation, we would say; we offer 10 to 20 sessions, we use best practices, evidence-based approach and you’re the decision-maker, you’re calling the shots. That is important because a lot of people may have been to other caregivers where they were pushed into this or that and it was a bad experience for them. So we make sure they know, right off the bat; the decision making here is informed and they make the decisions based on the options we offer.
“So we talk about that and, sometimes, that first phone call is just to hear this was not your fault and you deserve your wellness, your health. People want to hear that it’s right for them to take this time to invest in themselves.”
The release notes, in mid-January, the program’s services will be provided one-day-a-week at the Strait Area Women’s Place and that appointments are to be booked through the AWRC (902-863-6221).