SASC support services continue online and over the phone 

By Annette Angell, SASC Manager

Social distancing helps flatten the curve, but staying at home isn’t safe for everyone. Violence increases during any crisis, whether it is an earthquake or a pandemic. The increases we are currently witnessing in sexual violence due to COVID 19 social distancing measures are not unexpected. 

To meet the needs of the UBC community,  the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) is working remotely and continuing to offer on-call support, safety planning and phone appointments. We are still here for you 7 days a week online and over the phone.  

Increase in domestic violence and isolation due to COVID-19

Abuse is about exerting power and control over someone and COVID-19 is another tool that abusers can now use to limit autonomy and increase violence. Survivors who are quarantining or self-isolating with an abuser might have fewer opportunities to spend time outside the home or put safety plans in place.  Reports from anti-violence organizations and police departments already indicate increased demand for support services. For example, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) in Vancouver has reported a 300% increase in calls received on their crisis line during COVID-19. This National Post article also reports anywhere from 22-62% increases in domestic violence calls to police.

In addition to increased domestic violence, we know that sexualized violence is already isolating, so survivors of all forms of violence may experience exacerbated isolation and other trauma responses. For survivors of all genders who need support or safety planning, we encourage them to reach out to the SASC.  

SASC Service Changes

All of the SASC’s in-person support services and outreach events are suspended. Like many anti-violence organizations, we are working to expand our digital communication methods to serve survivors during this challenging time. Our Roots & Resilience support group will also run online for six weeks starting April 23, 2020. For the most recent updates on the SASC’s services, visit our Facebook page or blog

 The Sexual Assault Service (SAS) offered at VGH and UBC Urgent Care Centre is considered an essential service and is still operating. Survivors can access this service within 7 days of an assault. However, support workers aren’t able to provide in-person accompaniment at this time due to COVID-19 social distancing measures. We still encourage survivors interested in SAS to contact us if they have any questions or want other information about safety planning, reporting and support options. 

 Other services, such as transition housing, shelters, third party reporting options or court dates may also be affected by COVID-19. The SASC is regularly in contact with community partners to have the most up to date information about options for survivors. We welcome calls from survivors looking for information, support and safety planning and will do everything we can to connect them with the services they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How to access support and safety planning

For survivors who need support, organizations like the SASC can help with safety planning. If someone is unable to speak safely over the phone, they can reach us by email at sasc@ams.ubc.ca or they can have a trusted friend or neighbour call us to discuss safety planning. If someone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. 

There are also many resources to complete online safety plans, such as this one from BWSS: https://www.bwss.org/why-safety/planning/.

Resources that provide support and safety planning include:

  • AMS SASC: Contact us at 604-827-5180 or sasc@ams.ubc.ca. We will continue to be available Monday-Friday from 8 am-10 pm and Saturday & Sunday 11 am-7 pm. 
  • WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre’s 24-Hour Crisis and Information Line:  604-255-6344 or toll-free 1-877-392-7583
  • BWSS Crisis & Intake Line: 604-687-1867 or toll-free at 1-855-687-1868 for support and information. The BWSS crisis line is now open 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Text support is available at 604-652-1867.
  • UBC Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Office: 604-822-1588 Monday to Friday 8:30am-4:30pm
 The UBC community can help to prevent sexual violence

While COVID-19 requires physical distancing, we can still stay connected virtually. If it’s safe to do so, check in with your neighbours and friends online or over the phone. Offer to connect them with support services like the SASC. Family members and friends of survivors are also welcome to contact the SASC if they have questions about how to support survivors during these challenging circumstances. 

For student groups who are looking for workshops on responding to disclosures and bystander intervention, the SASC’s Outreach team is continuing to provide workshops and webinars online. You can request a workshop by submitting this online form or emailing sascvolunteer@ams.ubc.ca.  

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