Surrey Women’s Centre gets federal boost

Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch and MP Nina Grewal at the Surrey Women’s Centre for a press conference Friday announcing $250,000 in federal funding for programs to help women and girls facing violence. PNG

ELAINE O’CONNOR
VANCOUVER DESI

A quarter of a million dollars in new federal funding will help some 4,000 women who access services at the Surrey Women’s Centre each year to get the help they need to deal with physical or sexual violence.

The new money was announced Friday by Status of Women Minister Dr. K. Kellie Leitch at an event that included Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Nina Grewal and Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode.

Leitch said that as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon she has treated battered girls in emergency rooms.

“I’ve stood in the emergency department and met a 16-year-old girl with a broken arm or ankle,” she said. “I’ve witnessed the travesty of these young ladies and it is abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Statistics Canada figures show that in 2011, more than 170,000 women reported to police that they had been the victims of violent crime. Yet it’s generally accepted that under-reporting skews the real extent of the problem.

“Women and girls are so afraid to come forward when they have been sexually assaulted because there is still a sigma attached,” said Sonya Boyce, executive director of Surrey Women’s Centre Society.

Boyce said that “until now, there has been no effective co-ordination of services in our region to respond to the needs of women and girls who have been physically and/or sexually assaulted.”

The $250,000 in new funding will enable the centre to conduct research with women to see what would help them to access medical, legal and social supports.

Corinne Arthur, special projects coordinator for the centre said they were also looking to hire staff, who could pair with clients to assist them in accessing medical treatment, advocate for them through legal proceedings, and connect them with services, like housing and 24-hour drop-ins.

“Many of these services exist, but we know there are significant gaps between them,” Arthur said.

Arthur said the centre would also use the funding to reach marginalized women, such as First Nations women, new immigrant women and sex-trade workers.

We have a critical window of intervention,” Arthur said. “We’re really targeting those that have the least voice.”

Grewal said all levels of government had to “work together to provide violence-free lives for women and girls in Surrey.”

Coun. Rasode said the city had made “domestic abuse a priority” in their crime-reduction strategy.

Rasode helped launch the municipality’s annual Rahki Project, a white ribbon campaign that raises awareness of violence and funds for agencies that support women.

Surrey women also have access to the Department of Justice-funded Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team program, which offers a 24/7 phone line at (604) 583-1295.

Learn more at Smartalk.ca.

eoconnor@theprovince.com
twitter.com/elaine_oconnor

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