I had the good fortune of meeting Sara Casselman, the Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, or SASC for short, a few years ago. She was receiving the Mayor’s City Builder Award for the work she has done in support of sexual assault survivors in our community – a well-deserved honour indeed. Although I had heard a bit about the work SASC was involved in, I started following it much more closely after meeting Sara. I learned about the variety of services and supports they offer such as counselling, a 24-hour support line, and anti-trafficking work. They also provide educational workshops and resources, including the Male Allies program which supports boys and men in ending systemic and everyday forms of gender-based violence. This programming provides alternative narratives of masculinity, opportunity for self-reflection and dialogue, and challenges harmful language and behaviour. "It offers: a chance to talk about what it means to be a man today and address stereotypes, an opportunity to explore how to have a healthy relationship with family, friends and dating partners, and a forum to learn about creating safer schools, workplaces and communities."
As I have become more interested in the important work SASC is doing, I am learning some sobering facts about sexual assault, such as 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. And there’s many challenges that survivors face, including long wait lists for services. SASC’s current waitlist is over 140 individuals. We also know that challenging times, such as this pandemic, only leads to an increase in domestic violence. In fact, a recent StatsCan survey stated that 10% of women were ‘very concerned’ about violence in the home during the pandemic.
I have also noticed the challenges with much of the funding for organizations like the Sexual Assault Support Centre. Government funding is often precarious at best, as any changes in government leadership, economic challenges, and so on can mean that funding support could change at a moment’s notice. We saw that earlier this year as the provincial government announced that certain funding for support centres such as SASC would no longer continue. Clearly, it is definitely a challenge to plan for the long-term health and support of clients when funding sources can change so easily.
The Sexual Assault Support Centre is fortunate that it has many people right in our community that understand the value of their work, and support them financially through one-time donations, monthly donations, and by volunteering. SASC relies on financial support from its fundraising events, such as the annual Rosie the Riveter bowl-a-thon. However, like so many events right now, due to the pandemic, it has been moved to a virtual fundraiser. So, this year, we are being asked to #RallyWithRosie. Put on your best Rosie the Riveter outfit and post your photo to social media with the hashtag #RallyWithRosie. SASC will provide you with tools to educate and engage with your networks to help raise funds to support their work in our community. Visit their website to find out all of the details.
I have only known Sara for a couple of years now, but she continues to amaze me with her passion and support for survivors in our community. She gives so much to this work, including running a half-marathon on April 25th in support of SASC. You can learn more about that here. She knows how important the backing of donors and volunteers is to supporting survivors locally. You too can be a part of that important work this month by Rallying with Rosie.