“Women and children are stuck at home with their abusers.”
Those are the words of Lynnell Halikowski, the Executive Director of the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre who’s worked in the field for 38 years, and said the need for their services have skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“And it’s difficult to access services, I mean trying to get a doctor’s appointment. I don’t want to police bash, but I have stories of people calling for help and there’s slow response, no response.”
“Funds and people are being diverted to address the pandemic, which leaves women and children even more vulnerable and more at risk for violence. So the saying is, the most dangerous place for women is behind closed doors.”
Halikowski said that reports of gender based violence is already low, she noted that some people say as low as 4%.
“Those of us in the field know that any kind of community crisis, whether it be natural disasters like wildfires, floods, those kinds of things cause dramatic increases in gender based violence.”
She noted that 92 women were killed in the country in the first six months of 2021.
“It shouldn’t cost lives to prove predictions of data.”
“We know, sort of anecdotally on the ground, frontline work, our numbers have exploded, just in terms of addressing gender based violence.”
Halikowski said it was also alarming to see the severity of violence increasing as well.
“We’ve been saying this since the beginning, and we certainly were screaming it from the rooftops across the country two years ago when the pandemic started, and now the data’s in. It shouldn’t cost lives to prove predictions of data.”
She also noted that her organization still does not have guaranteed, designated funding from the province, and she’s calling on any level of government to start consistently supporting sexual assault centres.
“I’m not saying there’s been no funding, because the government did release sexual assault funding, throughout the pandemic there has been some federal and provincial funding that’s come through. But we don’t have designated core funding.”
“We’re dealing with people at the door, who are cold, who are hungry, who’ve also been assaulted.”
Halikowski said they have amazing staff, but they are working beyond capacity, and they are going ahead and doing outreach in their own vehicles.
“I mean, I’ve responded to a number of overdoses, that’s not our mandate, but that is what we are dealing with. We’re dealing with people at the door, who are cold, who are hungry, who’ve also been assaulted.”
“We’ve responded to a number of overdoses, and I’ve had people die in my arms. You’re not going to ignore someone overdosing outside your window, regardless of whether that’s what we do.”
She added that they’ve had to adapt their services, and have provided training to staff to use naloxone kits.
“These problems existed before, but with the pandemic its just reached a boiling point, where it’s really so obvious the cracks in our society.”