Surrey Women’s Centre plans to open the doors to its sexual assault centre in 2025, thanks in part to restored provincial funding, Shahnaz Rahman, executive director at Surrey Women’s Centre, said.
The centre was impacted when the province cut funding to sexual assault centres, rape crisis lines and women’s centres in the early 2000s, Rahman said.
“In the absence of that core funding, the Women’s Center continued to raise funds through community support to provide emergency services like sexual assault services,” Rahman said.
Surrey Women’s Centre is a women’s crisis centre in Surrey that works with in “collaboration with the medical and justice communities for the safety and care of women and children escaping violence.” reads a post on its website.
They have counselling services, help survivors navigate the justice system, and have a community outreach S.M.A.R.T. van that “connects with women in the community to provide critical life-saving services.” They also “ensure that survivors of gender-based violence are cared for and empowered to pursue liberty and happiness.”
In October, the province announced it was restoring funding to the Surrey Women’s Centre and four other centres that support survivors of sexual assault.
“The five centres being funded will provide trauma-informed, wraparound and culturally safe services at community-based organizations that have a proven track record with decades of knowledge and experience in supporting survivors of gender-based violence, and who are also part of strong, local co-ordinated networks,” Ninu Kang, executive director, Ending Violence Association of BC stated in a news release Oct. 18.
Beginning in April 2023, the province will provide $ 10 million annually to support the centres, as well as the delivery of the 70 sexual assault programs offering community-based services.
The other centres that will receive funding are the Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre in Vancouver, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre and the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre.
The Surrey Women’s Centre will receive $300,000 annually over the next five years. Rahman said while they are so grateful for the funding, it is not enough.
“We’re probably looking to raise a million dollars annually for the sexual assault centre to match the needs of this large community.”
This money will help the organization to move beyond just providing emergency services to providing a physical space for the person to heal from their journey.
“The goal for the centre for this is to make Surrey Sexual Assault Center welcoming for people who are often unseen and unheard,” Rahman said. “Like people who identify across different genders and sexual identities and race, because those are the people that are least likely to seek the support.”
The centre will be for anyone over the age of 13 who has experienced a sexual assault, Rahman said.
Rahman told the Now-Leader that they plan to open the centre in 2025.
2024 will be a year of planning for the centre. “We will be consulting with our partners with community agencies and the survivors on the streets, survivors that come to us as to what those needs are to make sure that the center is reflective of what they need.”
“At a minimum, what we’re hoping to include is a safe space for police interviews and have a forensic examination room,” Rahman said.
They also want to have a child-friendly area. “Since many, you know, survivors are mothers and children,” Rahman added.
“Our goal is to create a center that is grounded in advocacy and access to justice,” Rahman said.
To learn more about the organization, visit surreywomenscentre.ca.
-With files from Wolf Depner