TRURO, N.S. – Margaret Mauger and Kendra MacKinnon are worried about what will happen to some of their clients if funding for sexual assault centres is no longer provided.
The Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, like other sexual assault centres across the province, has been operating with help through Sexual Violence Strategy funding for the past two years, but that ends at the end of March.
“Two people were hired through this, and without it we can’t sustain the staff we have,” said Mauger, trauma therapist at the centre. “At the end of the day, the community would be impacted; we couldn’t be able to meet the demand for counselling.”
Mauger was the only employee at the centre before the two-year funding came through, serving as both executive director and therapist. The grant enabled Kendra MacKinnon to be hired as community coordinator (also taking over executive director duties after Mauger stepped back from that role) and for another part-time therapist to be hired.
“I have a wait list of five weeks now,” said Mauger. “It would go to 10 weeks or more if we lost funding for a second therapist.
“We knew the funding was time limited and we’ve been told to find the money, but it’s ridiculous to expect us to find it. If we could do that we would have done it years ago. We need government support to run this vital service.
“There are funding opportunities we can’t apply for because we work with all genders. Women’s centres get over $200,000 and I feel it’s discrimination.”
She asked a member of government why there was such a discrepancy in funding, and was told it was because the women’s centres were bigger.
“If we had that amount of money we’d be bigger too,” she said.
The grant the centre received was for $125,000, for two years. The only other funding it receives is $43,000 per year for education, prevention and awareness. That amount has remained the same for more than 20 years.
The centre has been waiting for about six months to find out whether funding will be provided to allow them to continue operating.
“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing,” said MacKinnon. “With everything in social media and news around the #metoo movement, our numbers are increasing.
“We’re often contacted by other agencies about people who need help and we get a lot of requests for presentations. If people need to vent or cry, I listen. It frustrates me so much that government doesn’t see this as an essential health service.”
The therapists see about 35 people each week, not including group programs. They only work part time, but often volunteer time to ensure people receive the help they need. Clients range from teens to seniors.
“If they couldn’t get help, some people would go to bed and refuse to get up, some would go back to drugs,” said Mauger. “Some people have said they didn’t know if they’d be alive if we weren’t here.
"Every community is affected by sexualized violence and every community needs support services."
Mauger said she cannot run the centre single handedly again, and if there is no funding to keep MacKinnon, she will not be able to remain.