Le Lézard
Classified in: Health, Science and technology
Subjects: PDT, MAT


A new option for providing help and guidance for victims of sexual violence

MONTRÉAL, Nov. 16, 2023 /CNW/ - The Sexual Violence Helpline, Québec's 24/7 helpline for victims of sexual violence, managed by the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre, or MSAC (Centre pour les victimes d'agression sexuelle de Montréal), now offers victims and those close to them a new chat option to give them the support they need in an anonymous and confidential setting.

The chat option, currently available from noon to midnight seven days a week, will be accessible 24/7 starting in the spring of 2024. The team, made up of trained, experienced counsellors with over ten years' combined experience in sexual violence counselling, provides support throughout Québec in both French and English. Services are offered to people of all ages, whether the sexual violence they experienced happened very recently or a long time ago (sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, sexual cyberviolence, etc.).

Just like the telephone helpline, digital interventions provide a caring presence, responding to victims' needs to be heard and validated, or to provide information. Counsellors ask situation-specific questions to guide victims toward informed decisions without imposing direction in order to let each person find their own path.

A new communication channel for even greater accessibility

With the introduction of their new chat channel, the Sexual Violence Helpline is hoping to reach out to even more victims, especially teens and young adults. Although there has been a growing number of telephone calls to the helpline over the past few years, people under 25 are still underrepresented. A publicity campaign is currently under way to inform young people about the new chat option.

"Since the younger generations prefer to communicate online in writing, we set up a chat tool to offer them easier access based on their communication habits. This new development reflects our desire to reach out to all people affected by sexual violence, regardless of their age or their preferred form of communication. Since 62% of sexual violence victims are under 18, we knew it was imperative to find an effective, safe way to offer them the support they need," explained Dèby Trent, Executive Director of the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre.

A response to key recommendations

The chat tool was developed in response to recommendations made by the Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors (2019-2020) that underlined the need for an interactive platform to provide information and resources to victims and those close to them. As primary funder of the Sexual Violence Helpline, the Québec Justice Ministry provided the financial support to create this new channel.

"When someone is ready to talk, ready to ask for help, we need to be there for them. The Sexual Violence Helpline's new chat platform gives us an additional tool to reach out to both adults and young people, another way to extend a helping hand to victims who want to begin healing. We are very grateful to all those who were involved in making this initiative a success," said Justice Minister and Attorney General Simon Jolin-Barrette.

A service hailed by community organizations

The new chat option has been praised and welcomed with open arms by the various community organizations that also provide counselling and support. En Marge 12-17 is one of the MSAC's partners that works with young people in trouble and is involved in several joint projects focused on prevention and intervention for young people at risk or in situations of sexual exploitation.

The response of the En Marge 12-17 team to the new platform was enthusiastic: "The innovative chat tool being launched by the Sexual Violence Helpline is an effective response to the constant need to help those who are most vulnerable. Chat reaches out to young people by using the means of communication that is best adapted to the complex situations they may be dealing with."

Involved in research and support

By adapting its telephone intervention practices to a chat environment, the Sexual Violence Helpline has also decided to help remedy the lack of robust data in the scientific literature. The team will be collaborating with UQAM's Service aux collectivités in launching a study entitled "From telephone support to chat support: adapting and evaluating the communication practices of a sexual violence helpline," directed by professors O. Turbide and C. Bourassa-Dansereau of UQAM's department of social and public communication, and researcher E. Huot. The goal of this collaboration is to alleviate the deficit in literature and research in the area of sexual violence and digital counselling, as well as to provide much needed information for community organizations interested in making the transition. By expanding the research data base, the new chat tool will contribute to the development of best practices in online support of victims of sexual violence.

The MSAC: helping sexual violence victims since 1980

The MSAC has been committed to helping victims of sexual assault since its founding in 1980. Its mission is to provide a safe, non-judgmental space where people affected by sexual assault are welcomed, listened to, believed and supported in accordance with their choices.

About the Sexual Violence Helpline

Managed by the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre, the Sexual Violence Helpline is a telephone helpline and source of information and resources that offers anonymous and confidential support free of charge in both French and English for anyone who has been affected by sexual violence. The line receives an average of 10,000 calls every year. Its role as a referral resource is essential for guiding victims towards aid resources that can meet their specific needs. Counsellors offer a safe, respectful and non-judgemental environment.

SOURCE Centre pour les victimes d'agression sexuelle de Montréal

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