The B.C. government is allocating $10 million through a three-year grant program to provide emergency sexual assault response services and help survivors throughout the province.
“Gender-based violence, including sexual assault, can increase during times of crisis, and that’s why our government continues to prioritize services and supports for survivors of these devastating crimes,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said on Tuesday.
The province said it is still too early to determine the full impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on sexual violence. Different organizations have seen different responses.
Many organizations described it as “eerily quiet” during the first two weeks of the pandemic restrictions, and thought survivors were behind closed doors and unable to ask for help.
“What we are hearing in B.C. is that it is starting,” said Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of BC, which will distribute the grant funding.
“The service workers have been saying to us what they are most worried about is a tsunami of demand for their help once the lockdown is fully lifted.”
The funding helps to replace cuts made in 2002 to sexual assault centres.
It’s on top of the more than $40 million in annual government funding to support more than 400 programs that combat violence against women.