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Walk-in counselling program launches this week for sexual assault survivors

#MeToo and #TimesUp movements have created upswing in calls, requests for support, says Women's Support Network executive director
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Staff of the Women's Support Network of York Region are shown here, including (from left) public education coordinator, Seema Allandini, and executive director Jackie Benn-John. File photo/NewmarketToday

The Women’s Support Network of York Region this week launches a new evening counselling program for survivors of past or recent sexual violence, sexual harassment, human trafficking, abuse, exploitation or rape.

The walk-in program begins Thursday, July 11 and runs from 4-8 p.m. at the network’s office at 1110 Stellar Dr., Unit 109, in Newmarket. Survivors will have access to immediate and in-person support from the network’s counsellors, on a first-come first-served basis only.  

The first session can begin as early as 4:15 p.m. and the last session of the night starts at 7:15 p.m. 

“Awareness of sexual violence is increasing, which is a significant and positive achievement,” Women's Support Network of York Region executive director Jackie Benn-John said. “With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in the last year, community-based sexual assault centres have seen a significant upswing in calls and requests for support.” 

“These realities indicate a positive cultural shift in sexual violence awareness, but they also bring new service demands and new support-seekers,” Benn-John added. “In response, we created the walk-in counselling support option which will complement our ongoing counselling program, and provide immediate and in-person support to survivors of sexual violence in York Region.”

Who is eligible for walk-in counselling? 

The Women’s Support Network (WSN) welcomes: 

  • Woman-identified survivors of past sexual violence, including adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse 
  • Woman-identified survivors of recent sexual violence 
  • Survivors of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or rape 
  • Clients must be support-seekers who are not already in counselling at WSN with an ongoing counsellor 
  • New clients 
  • Clients on WSN’s existing waiting list for ongoing counselling 

Walk-in counselling is most appropriate for support-seekers who: 

  • Have completed an intake for ongoing counselling, but are currently on a waiting list for longer-term services
  • Have not completed an intake for ongoing counselling, and are thinking about giving counselling a try
  • Do not wish to initiate formal counselling intake: They simply wish to come to counselling when they choose to do so and are available
  • Have a less-predictable schedule or limited availability, and are unable to set an appointment in advance
  • Want to access support in-person, one-time only
  • Are new to WSN or York Region
  • Have a time-limited or immediate question or concern regarding information on reporting, supporting a loved one/family member, need a referral to another service, support with coping and dealing with difficult emotions or memories. 
  • Support with advocacy or completing paperwork 
  • Need help preparing for an upcoming event such as a court date, facing one’s abuser, or a challenging social situation. 

Walk-in counselling is meant to offer support to those who do not have ongoing supports in place and to provide support to individuals as needed, and on a short-term basis. It is not a substitute for sessions with one’s existing counsellor, or a place to access sessions additional to those provided through ongoing counselling.

Bus tickets are available for those needing assistance with transportation.

For more information, call 905-895-3646 or visit here.

The Women’s Support Network of York Region provides free, confidential services for women who have experienced sexual violence in York Region. It also operates a free crisis line 24 hours a day at 1-800-263-6734.


Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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