As part of May's Sexual Assault Prevention Month, WomanACT would like to shine a spotlight on a Toronto agency, Elizabeth Fry Toronto, for their commitment to support survivors of sexual assault. Elizabeth Fry Toronto is a charitable organization dedicated to helping women break the cycles of criminalization and victimization in their lives. For 65 years, this agency has offered support through individual and group counselling, crisis intervention, release planning, referrals, transitional housing, and community education for women who are, have been or are at risk of being in conflict with the law. The programs at Elizabeth Fry Toronto provide the first stage of healing and are designed to help women learn new skills that will help them successfully reintegrate into the community after a term of imprisonment and avoid future contact with the criminal justice system. We wanted to learn a little bit more about Elizabeth Fry Toronto, and more specifically, how they are supporting survivors of sexual assault.
What services does Elizabeth Fry Toronto offer in respect to sexual assault survivors?
Trauma is a pervasive issue for clients. The Healing from Abuse Counselling Program provides an opportunity for marginalized women to identify and explore their experiences of trauma and abuse and to gain awareness of how trauma symptoms are interfering with their lives. By addressing the underlying issues of trauma, clients have the opportunity to explore the healing process. This instills a sense of wellness and can facilitate the development and maintenance of healthy, productive relationships, both intimate and with the community at large.
The Exit Doors Program supports female-identifying persons as they transition out of the sex industry and uses the Critical Time Intervention Model of Changes to support women. Services offered are: outreach, counselling, housing, and employment support. Through community partners, other supports such as medical, legal, and financial are also offered. The program facilitates integrating into healthy community, and the care/support for an individual continues throughout the different stages of their journey as they exit the sex industry. Exit Doors supports females who are working on the street, trafficked, and also private/non-identifying sex workers. The program aims to assist in building a healthy lifestyle that they envision for themselves.
The Partner Intervention Program is a domestic violence court initiative that delivers a specialized \mandated community based group intervention for women funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General. This program provides individual support and group counselling to women who have been charged within domestic violence situations and are mandated to attend counselling\psycho-educational group for issues related to abuse and emotions management.
The Talk and Listen Support Line is a toll-free number that provides direct access to emotional support and bridges the gap for women in conflict with the law and the community. Callers have a space to simply talk about everything and anything on their mind without fear of judgement. The Talk and Listen is “staffed” by community volunteers. The volunteers support women with discussion of next steps and speak about housing, employment, education and counselling services. Imagining a future of possibility helps women feel more prepared upon their release and in turn reduces recidivism rates. The support line is an early stage in the reintegration process as women have the opportunity to discuss their feelings, future planning and goals upon release. This program is also available for women in the community.
What can be done in the city of Toronto to enhance services for sexual assault survivors?
Since more and more people can easily access the internet and social media, cyber violence against women and girls is an increasing concern. In the city of Toronto, there could be more counselling, more awareness, and more education surrounding the issue of sexual assault, and safe exiting. We could also create partnerships with other agencies that are able to get funding to help carry out strategies and discuss the needs of women and girls to prevent or eliminate this form of gender-based violence in the community.
WomanACT would like to thank Elizabeth Fry Toronto for sharing their work and providing great support resources for survivors of sexual assault in Toronto. Visit the Elizabeth Fry Toronto website to learn more about their programs, services, mission, values and contact information.
Continue to stay tuned to the WomanACT blog for more stories, news, and informative posts regarding Sexual Assault Prevention Month.