There is up to a nine month wait for sexual violence survivors seeking counselling services in the province and the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services believes the online #MeToo movement is part of what’s increasing the demand.
“What we’ve seen is a dramatic shift in attitude, people coming forward in unprecedented numbers,” said CEO Deb Tomlinson.
“Sexual violence has traditionally been hidden in the shadows.”
She credits #MeToo for changing historically low reporting numbers for sexual violence cases. The association said it can meet the new demand for services if the provincial government agrees to a 53 per cent increase in funding, which is still under review. The money will support counselling, crisis response and prevention programs.
Tomlinson said online momentum has also propelled the association’s #IBelieveYou campaign. One of the components of the campaign is to raise awareness about how to respond to someone who is disclosing a sexual violence experience. According to hashtracking.com, last year #MeToo participants also added the #IBelieveYou to their Twitter and other social media posts, which boosted social reach by about 40 million.
“By using avenues like social media to shift the culture, eventually that will have an impact on traditional systems,” said Tomlinson.
A poll of 100 Albertans conducted by Leger Marketing in November 2017 said 67 per cent of those surveyed believe they would know what to say to someone who disclosed a sexual assault.