Looking to support survivors of gender-based violence amidst a recent spike in demand for services, the federal government is providing a boost in funding for two province wide crisis-line providers. 

Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre (Salal) and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) have received new federal funding to enhance their crisis lines, which both provide 24-hour comprehensive and specialized gender-based violence supports. Their services include risk assessment, immediate safety planning, and addressing the unique needs of Indigenous victims.

“People in danger need to know they have options,” said Kelli Paddon, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for gender equity in a press release. “As we continue to develop a gender-based violence action plan for B.C., the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and Salal will help strengthen supports available to ensure people are cared for, provided trauma-informed and culturally appropriate support, and can begin the path toward healing when the time is right for them.”

The two organizations will receive $2.75 million over four years to help address what the province called an increased volume of calls, as people experiencing violence, and those seeking related services, experienced barriers to accessing services safely. 

The province said in its release Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre offers 24-hour immediate crisis assistance, and anti-oppressive, decolonizing, and intersectional feminist support to survivors of gender-based violence, including sexualized and domestic violence. The organization also offers workshops to increase knowledge and awareness about sexual violence in communities throughout the province.

The IRSSS provides support to Indian residential school survivors, students, and intergenerational survivors, while also offering 24-hour crisis support and support for families affected by trauma related to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis. The IRSS also offers trauma-informed cultural support to survivors of gender-based violence across the province and country. 

The province said in its release that by supporting Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations in expanding their survivor-support services and crisis lines, they are working toward creating safer communities by providing options for those facing crisis.

“People who experience gender-based violence need to be able to access supports and the care they need when and where they need it,” said Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Our government has created stable, ongoing funding for sexual assault services programs and substantially increased funding to other victim-service programs.

We know there is more to do, and enhancing crisis lines will make a critical difference for many women, girls, transgender and non-binary people across B.C.”

Both organizations receiving the federal funding expressed the importance of tackling issues around gender-based violence, highlighting the new partnership between Salal and IRSSS as a way to decrease the amount of barriers to accessing related services.

“These crisis lines can be a lifesaver, as they offer low-barrier access to trauma-informed services,” said Angela White, executive director of the IRSSS.“At the IRSSS, the crisis-line team is educated and has cultural safety training and awareness of the traumas of Indian residential schools and other determinants of First Nations’ health.” 

The demand for both organization’s services is apparent, with Salal’s call volumes having increased by more than 70 percent in 2021-22 compared to pre-pandemic call volumes in 2019-20. VictimLinkBC, a provincial crisis line available to victims of all types of crime, had its call volumes increase by approximately 40 percent in 2021-22 compared to pre-pandemic call volumes in 2019-20.

For immediate crisis support, call the national toll-free line at 1-877-392-7583. For more information about IRSSS, visit www.irsss.ca. For immediate crisis support, call 1-800-721-0066.