Increase in violent sexual crimes, requests for counselling strain support system in Halifax

Advocates say the news that Halifax’s only sexual assault clinic has reached capacity, meaning it will no longer be accepting new clients for counseling, highlights the strain being placed on the support system in Nova Scotia’s capital city.

The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre announced their decision on Monday, saying that it was the first time they’ve had to take the drastic step since they began offering counselling services 23 years ago.

The centre notes there are people who have been waiting for counselling for more than two years. The caseload has been so heavy the centre is no longer able to give accurate estimated wait times.

Avalon said on Monday that they’ll be directing their efforts to clients on their waiting list and that the need for more counselling resources is already being felt across the city.

Organizations that refer clients to Avalon say they are struggling to find resources for clients, highlighting a gap in the system.

Val Shapiro works at Adsum Women and Children, a shelter in Halifax and has frequently used Avalon as a resource for their clients.

“People that we work with face closed doors and it’s a disservice to them when opportunities aren’t available,” said Shapiro.

“It’s a failure of our system that those doors are closed, that our system as a whole isn’t finding ways to find women support.”

Avalon did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday but did publish an infographic on their Facebook page, one that they say depicts the scale of the issues they face.

Halifax Regional Police say that there has been an increase in the number of sexualized violent crimes in the last two years and have used Avalon as a resource in the past.

However, Halifax Regional Police also provide victim services resources.

“Even if they’re not in a situation where they’re not ready to go forward into the court process, we can certainly help them out,” said Const. John MacLeod, a police spokesperson.

“There is no limitation for time on when they can report these or when they can take these forward into the court process but it is important for us to receive the information so that we’re aware of it and so we can start to help them in whatever way we can.”

Shapiro hopes that the government will provide more resources to the province and organizations like Avalon.

“I don’t think turning people away is the response that we should have as a community,” said Shapiro.

“I understand that an individualizes non-profit they only have a certain amount of capacity and they are not our only resource and I would like to see our community recognize women out there who want support it should be available to them.”

Shapiro says Adsum Women and Children will still be providing resources to their clients, but will be referring clients with individualized trauma support to mental health services.

With files from Rebecca Lau

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