Almost half of all women in Canada experience intimate partner violence or sexual assault in their lifetime. Despite this, we live in a society where access to appropriate, culturally-safe care is currently the exception and not the norm.
Survivors often report not feeling comfortable or supported in disclosing what happened to them. In fact, just 5% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. This lack of disclosure, and resulting lack of adequate support can have a long lasting and devastating impact on the health of women, families, and our community.
The BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre’s Population and Global Health is changing this reality, thanks to support from BC Women’s Health Foundation and our donors. Most recently, the Population and Global Health program collaborated with the Ending Violence Association of BC on a 4-year community-based research project, “Changing Perceptions: Reimagining Sexual Assaults”. The project, made possible by a Vancouver Foundation Grant acquired by BCWHF, investigated how public perceptions of sexual assault impact survivors, and how they can be shifted to create more accessible care.
This project will inform the work of BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre’s Sexual Assault Service. The service provides free and confidential care to patients who visit the Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Department or UBC Hospital Urgent Care Centre after experiencing sexual assault.
By working in direct consultation with survivors, care providers, and healthcare leaders, the researchers have learned how a lack of training contributes to practices like ‘victim-blaming’ in the provincial health system. Additionally, results show that many providers are unaware of what specialized resources exist for survivors — meaning they are unable to offer them to a patient who discloses assault.
The project illuminated how to educate care providers across BC to offer, or direct survivors to, the trauma-informed supports needed. Today, our donors are helping the research team put these findings into action and create training programs that will improve the quality of care available across the province.
Our 2022 Fall Impact Report, INVISIBLE TO INVINCIBLE, highlights a handful of ways that your investments are amplifying the voices of women, bridging the gender gap in women’s health research, and helping to fund vital equipment and upgrades at the province’s dedicated women’s hospital.