January is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, events typically held to promote the message have had to go virtual.
But that does not mean that the events, which emphasize the violence suffered in the home, will go unnoticed.
Organizers from the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society (COEFS) and UBCO’s Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (SVPRO) said this is especially important now as calls for service have increased.
Samantha, COEFS victim services worker and team leader, said that since the start of the pandemic and more people have had to stay at home, with the number of people calling for help. and people using their services has skyrocketed.
“Just last summer, especially in July, we saw some of our highest numbers ever,” she said.
“Our numbers are skyrocketing and have been pretty much constant since then… we are also seeing an increase over the holidays, particularly in January, and we are seeing it now.”
She said that overall, they have seen an increase of at least 30% in the number of new clients seeking help from COEFS.
Samantha has said more than ever that it is important to highlight issues of sexual assault, especially since many people are unable to physically check on friends and family due to the pandemic.
“We have to shed some light on this… because sometimes those who are in your bubble, those with whom you isolate yourself, they are the ones who mistreat you. “
She added that this is why it is important to make sure you have a select group of people you trust who you know you can talk to about your situation. Another tip she gave is to have a code word with your security group that will let them know what you need when you need them.
“But everything is so individualized that it’s hard to say that there is a single way out of an abusive situation.”
“Another important thing is to connect with resources like us, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, Mamas for Mamas and places like this. We will listen to your specific situation and come up with a unique plan that is safe for you, ”Samantha said.
And if you suspect that your friend or loved one may have been assaulted or may be in an abusive relationship, Samantha said the best thing you can do is be there for them, listen to their story and help them out. to connect to resources.
Another important thing to do is learn ways to prevent sexual violence.
For more information on sexual violence and UBCO virtual events, visit SVPRO website.
Video reporter, Black Press Okanagan