It all started with five women in 1985 wanting to turn around the lives of survivors of sexual violence. Together they started a crisis line, the Halton Rape Crisis Centre. Four years later, their number had grown to 12 volunteers, answering 50 calls a year. Now, the renamed Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton (SAVIS) responds to more than 600 crisis calls a year, supporting 220 clients in our counselling program. More than 3,300 attendees come to our community events and violence prevention presentations each year.
Still, we know that sexual assault remains an ongoing issue in Canada and persists as one of our most under-reported crimes. Research has indicated that one in four victims suffers feelings of shame, guilt and stigma, some of which may result in longer-term emotional consequences.
That is why SAVIS wants to change the lives of survivors and change the public’s perception of sexual violence.
To move this along, SAVIS offers free and confidential 24/7, one-on-one crisis counselling services, with no judgment, just support. Services can be short- or long-term in nature and are open to female-identified, male-identified and transgender people aged 14 and over who are survivors of violence, including childhood abuse. SAVIS does not discriminate when it comes to race, colour, disability, age or national origin.
Requests for personal counselling can be completed in person, through confidential telephone sessions or online. You take part in your own accomplishments: at SAVIS we believe that survivors of violence can make their own individual healing choices, ones that lead to successful results.
We realize support comes from many different avenues. So we also provide short-term counselling and resources for family members, friends and support people, available in Oakville, Acton, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton.
SAVIS provides 24/7 support through our support and crisis line, offering free, confidential and non-judgmental assistance to survivors of sexual assault and violence. This support line can be used by anyone who has experienced distress or trauma and to support people of survivors such as friends, partners and family members. The line is answered by staff and skilled volunteers who have successfully completed in-depth frontline training. Our support line is routed through an answering service that will take the caller’s contact number and pass it on to the worker who is on call. The caller’s contact number is always kept confidential.
SAVIS volunteers are trained to help survivors file a police report for sexual assault, go with them to court or Nina’s Place in Joseph Brant Hospital where they can receive medical care after a sexual assault. The volunteer can also provide advocacy, information, resources, options and emotional support to empower and inform the client. While we provide options, we do not guide clients’ choices.
SAVIS works to increase public awareness of sexual harassment and violence, especially in societies that tolerate one-sided, patriarchal power. Staying silent will only perpetuate the cycle of abuse affecting women and children.
SAVIS provides free and confidential one-on-one, online and telephone counselling from a feminist perspective. Counselling is available at our Oakville, Acton, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton locations. We understand that women experience oppression in varying configurations and intensity depending on their individual backgrounds and this may have an additional impact on those already facing sexual abuse. Our counsellors work from an anti-racist and anti-oppressive viewpoint to provide assessments that are non-judgmental and supportive.
We provide various counselling packages based on your needs: from three to five sessions for crisis counselling, short-term counselling of up to eight sessions or long-term counselling of 24 sessions.
SAVIS also provides crisis counselling at the Vanier Centre for Women and Hope Place Residential Treatment Centre in Milton. All counselling is free of charge.
We adhere to the following tenets:
- Centre staff and volunteers adopt the working assumption that the victim of sexual assault bears no responsibility for the assault.
- Centre staff and volunteers accept the client’s description of the reported incident at face value.
- Centre staff and volunteers assist the client to direct her/his legitimate anger at her/his assailant rather than inwardly.
- Authority for all decision-making about the client’s action rests solely with the client. Staff and volunteers are responsible for outlining the options that are available. When in doubt about how to proceed, staff and volunteers consult with the appropriate colleague.
- Referral of clients to other agencies and/or services is undertaken with the utmost care to ensure that the client is treated from a feminist perspective.
New to SAVIS is the Male Ally Network. This three-year project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation is aimed at promoting education in our community about gendered violence. The program will engage male-identified clients to challenge the narrow definitions of masculinity, embrace an intersectional understanding of equal relationships and work towards creating a truly equal society free of violence. Through the collective efforts of male volunteers, M.A.N. will provide presentations to agencies and community members and groups, staff information booths, host conferences in the second and third years of the project and distribute resources.
The SAVIS senior program hosts Senior Circles presentations throughout the Halton region. Topics focus on elder abuse, social isolation, interfamilial violence and intergenerational conflict. Volunteer senior leaders assist the program coordinator during these events.
SAVIS offers more than 30 different public education workshops and presentation topics to schools, the community, businesses and agencies. Popular topics include healthy relationships, self-esteem, coping with emotions and how to support a survivor of violence. These presentations are free and available to any group in the Halton region.
SAVIS of Halton created the “Be the Change” eLearning lessons in collaboration with the Halton District School Board and funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The “Be the Change” program takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi who encouraged people in all walks of life to engage in positive social and community action. The main objective of the project is to provide information and resources about healthy relationships to students and also to support teachers in their efforts to ensure a safe and inclusive learning environment.
SAVIS is taking a lead role on mapping out services for trafficked girls and women in Halton region. The main goal of the project is to lead the development of a support model for survivors of human trafficking and raise awareness about the issue in the Halton region through public education and training.
Dedicated volunteers are essential to many of the programs that SAVIS operates. Volunteer opportunities include work on the crisis and support line, outreach through information booths at schools and community events, membership on the steering or fundraising committees, attending bingo fundraisers once a month or helping out in our offices. SAVIS offers front-line volunteer training once a year as well as training for other roles throughout the year.
SAVIS is a non-profit referral agency. Other agencies and community members are encouraged to tell clients about our services. Individuals can call our central office during business hours at 905-825-3622. Information will be taken over the phone and callers need only to give their first name, the initial of their last name and a phone number. A counsellor will call them back to make an appointment.