Red Deer Crisis Centre an important community fixture

The Crisis Centre is a non-profit organization that serves Central Alberta sexual abuse and sexual assault victims in their journey to healing.

Executive director Lois Hansen said one of the hardest things with being a sexual assault centre is that many people are unaware they even exist.

“We are looking at changing the name for the agency to have the words sexual assault in it. People think the Crisis Centre is overall crisis and that’s the problem,” said Hansen.

The Crisis Centre has operated in Red Deer for 25 years and sees men, women and children from age four and up who have dealt with sexual assault or abuse.

“We usually have a two- or three-week waiting period, we are very busy,” said Hansen.

Hansen said a huge improvement has been seen in the number of men willing to come to the centre for help. “One in three women are sexually assaulted, one in six men, and only eight per cent of sexual assaults are ever reported.”

Sexual assault is one of the more unreported crimes in Canada and it makes it hard to come up with a statistics base, said Hansen.

The Crisis Centre sees people who have been victimized as recently as a matter of days ago to people who have suffered in what would be considered a historic timeline — sometimes of up to 30 years ago.

“When people come in to us they’re getting counselling and we have a therapist as well. We don’t put a cap on the number of sessions someone needs, if they need to come for two years to deal with their issues then we’ll serve that.”

Each person is dealt with on an individual basis and Hansen said that is the key to getting him or her the right help and treatment. “We do referrals to other agencies and other resources in town. They then meet with the counsellor and go over issues and then the counsellor can determine what information is best for that client.”

The Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for all types of calls and Hansen said it is an important resource for many people.

The Crisis Centre also has a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) that responds to all sexual assaults reported through the hospital. “It is a collaborative team working with the hospital and the RCMP.”

Hansen said the idea is to get the information out so that people know what is available to them. “We don’t want the incident to impact the victim for the rest of their lives.”

People are not aware of how often sexual abuse or assault happens in our community, said Hansen. “It’s out there and it’s happening and it’s far too frequent.”

She explained that the Crisis Centre also offers school programs and presentations at community centres. “It’s about awareness. We’re all more comfortable talking about domestic violence now than we were 25 years ago. We need to talk about it more and get it out on the table and talk about the issues about sexual assault.”

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