The Sexual Assault Centre of Brant is the result of many volunteer hours by women in the Brant County Community. In 1986, the District Health Council first submitted a proposal for a Sexual Assault Treatment Centre to be based at Brantford General Hospital. Changed governmental and health council priorities resulted in this proposal being sidelined.
In 1988, a group of community women who had either professional or personal experience of the impacts of sexual assault, banded together to publicize the needs of Brant County women who had been victims of sexual assault. This group evolved into the Brant Sexual Assault Awareness Committee. The primary goals of the committee were to work towards maximizing any services that existed for sexual assault victims; educate Brant County residents regarding the extent of sexual assault, and to advocate for the development of local services.
In June 1988, the Committee sponsored community forums throughout Brant County, developed information pamphlets for sexual assault victims, parents and medical professionals; and, in conjunction with Nova Vita, circulated a questionnaire designed to begin to demonstrate that sexual assault was a common experience for women in Brant County.
In 1990, the Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Secretary of State funded the Committee to carry out a needs assessment of Brant County sexual assault services. The results were reported to the provincial government in Brant County Needs Sexual Assault Services: 800 Residents Speak Out.
In 1991 the NDP government announced that Brant County would be one of the 10 new expansion centres that the Solicitor General’s office would be funding. The Project Coordinator was hired in June 1992 to begin to formulate the framework for the eventual operation of the Centre. By April 1993, four staff members were hired, and 17 volunteers in training. On May 28, 1993 the doors officially opened.
The implementation of the Crisis Line was delayed until October 1, 1993. Initially about one call a day was being received on the line. By Spring 1994, that level had doubled, and subsequently, the number of monthly calls received fluctuates between 70 and 130.
In addition to providing crisis intervention support, the Centre has provided volunteer training, a training program for group co-facilitation, support groups for women who are survivors of historical assault, individual counselling, court accompaniment and advocacy, and public education.
Like most organizations, the Centre has experienced growing pains. Initially it organized as a collective, which exemplified the Centre’s philosophy about how power should be distributed and shared. The design of the collective placed high demands on each volunteer. This, plus the absence of effective, non-blaming conflict resolution mechanisms resulted in a high turnover of volunteers, board members, and eventually, staff. During the Spring of 1995 an Organizational Review was undertaken to highlight problem areas and help the Centre restructure to a more workable model.
By August 1995, staffing was again at its full complement. The Centre structure had become increasingly hierarchical, and the Centre had its first executive director. Existing programs were being reviewed and expanded, with plans underway to implement peer counselling. November 1995 saw the Centre’s board filled to its full complement of 10 for the first time.
The Centre’s services have continued to run at full capacity powered by a small paid staff team and the group of dedicated and highly skilled volunteers who comprise the Board of Directors, committee members, and crisis line staff.