By Sue Tiffin
Two rural frontline agencies that support victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and have seen a growing demand for services during the pandemic will receive funding totalling $205,000 from the provincial government.
The YWCA Peterborough Haliburton will receive $142,949 to support the Haliburton Emergency SafeSpace (HERS) program, along with an additional $8,272 for training initiatives. The Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre will receive $55,088 to deliver crucial services and supports to survivors of human trafficking and women who have experienced violence.
On Feb. 10, Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock and Dave Smith, MPP for Peterborough-Kawartha met virtually with Kim Dolan, YWCA Peterborough Haliburton executive director to make the announcement.
“We all know the pandemic has been tough and it’s not only tough on our businesses and healthcare systems but also for women experiencing violence at home, and has caused a demand for increases in services and supports,” said Scott. “This funding will provide agencies with more resources, help strengthen culturally responsive supports for Indigenous women, and reduce geographic and transportation barriers which will significantly improve access to quality care and services to victims in our rural and remote communities. Whether someone lives inside or outside of the town of Haliburton or Peterborough County, they should be able to access the same quality of services.”
Smith applauded Scott for advocating for support for victims, as well as Dolan for designing programs to help.
Dolan said that as a result of the pandemic there were challenges with increased rates in domestic violence, with a gendered impact in terms of economic security and women with more caregiving responsibilities.
“It’s become as we know a more complex time of tremendous uncertainty and who could have imagined that three years later we’re still facing the challenges of the pandemic,” she said. She noted that during the pandemic, many have faced uncertainty about their jobs, or how they can teach their kids at home and some more than others.
“It’s exacerbated in rural and geographically isolated areas when access to services or even neighbours, when connecting with community is minimized,” she said. “I think all of the factors we’ve collectively experienced throughout the pandemic have magnified the reality and presence of gender-based violence. I think we’ve seen magnification of the really great things we’ve seen in our society and the things we need to work on.”
When women living with violence are stuck at home, perhaps watching or teaching kids and unable to leave, the monitoring of their behaviour is increased and the situation becomes more complicated for women to reach out, and for services to reach in, said Dolan.
The HERS program, she said, is operating at full capacity, with 10 staff members, many who pick up shifts alongside jobs they have in aligned sectors. Dolan thanked the team of “incredible women who showed up every single day to do work with and beside and on behalf of women in our communities.”
According to a press release from Scott’s office, the funding is part of $3.6 million the Ontario government is investing in rural frontline agencies to address the growing strain on services due to the pandemic, promote awareness of available local services, address service gaps and build community capacity to support women in rural and remote communities who have experienced violence and sex trafficking.