In 1990, the Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Secretary of State funded the Committee to carry out a needs assessment of Brant County sexual assault services. The results were reported to the provincial government in Brant County Needs Sexual Assault Services: 800 Residents Speak Out.
In 1991 the NDP government announced that Brant County would be one of the 10 new expansion centres that the Solicitor General’s office would be funding. The Project Coordinator was hired in June 1992 to begin to formulate the framework for the eventual operation of the Centre. By April 1993, four staff members were hired, and 17 volunteers in training. On May 28, 1993 the doors officially opened.
The implementation of the Crisis Line was delayed until October 1, 1993. Initially about one call a day was being received on the line. By Spring 1994, that level had doubled, and subsequently, the number of monthly calls received fluctuates between 70 and 130.
In addition to providing crisis intervention support, the Centre has provided volunteer training, a training program for group co-facilitation, support groups for women who are survivors of historical assault, individual counselling, court accompaniment and advocacy, and public education.
Like most organizations, the Centre has experienced growing pains. Initially it organized as a collective, which exemplified the Centre’s philosophy about how power should be distributed and shared. The design of the collective placed high demands on each volunteer. This, plus the absence of effective, non-blaming conflict resolution mechanisms resulted in a high turnover of volunteers, board members, and eventually, staff. During the Spring of 1995 an Organizational Review was undertaken to highlight problem areas and help the Centre restructure to a more workable model.
The summer of 2005 was spent spearheading a new inter-agency committee dedicated to conducting outreach to sex trade workers in Brant-Halidamand Norfolk counties called STREET (Sex Trade Resource Education and Empowerment Team). Later that year we also saw the start of Safe Spaces Project, which was developed in order to provide resources to LGBTQ youth in Brant County as well as to teachers, school admin, and youth service providers.
In the 2006-7 year, we hosted a weekend event with Red Dress Productions (funded by OCRCC), worked with Amnesty International and arranged to have a presentation on the issues of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, received funding for out “My Body Belongs To Me” program from the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Ontario Victim Services Secretariat (a program that provided individual counselling, information and referrals to women 14-24 who live with a disability), and we also received funding from Ontario Trillium for a one year project designed to provide resources, counselling and volunteers opportunities for women who are 50+.
Over the next 2-3 years, we worked with other community initiatives around anti-poverty and anti-oppression initiatives. In 2009 we received increased funding for the Young Women’s Program, ran educational sessions with Community living and Children’s Aid Society Young Parent Program, and worked on a peace and diversity mural with the Arts Block.
In 2010, we launched the Taylor the Turtle initiative through funding from the Ontario Trillium Grant. The program was launched to educate elementary school students (and teachers) on consent and body rights.
In 2012, the Centre brought in Dr. Gabor Mate from Vancouver to share experiences about his learning on safe injection sites and harm reduction techniques (and had over 200 people register). More Grand Erie District schools were added to Taylor the Turtles agenda for training and a year later, Taylor was brought into the City of Brantford day camp.
In 2014, we launched the No More Project in collaboration with Nova Vita (a project that originally began with the intent of speaking to young men and boys about gendered and sexual violence before some gendered language was removed in response to many trans participants points out the lack of inclusion for non-binary folks).
In 2015, we saw the Centre’s first annual walk/run, joined Laurier’s Gendered Violence Task Force, received Brant Community Foundation funding to extend the Young Women’s counselling hours into the summer, and presented Taylor the Turtle to all Grade One Brantford teachers (as it was added to the health curriculum!)
2016 was another year of growth as we partnered with Wilfrid Laurier to establish a Sexual Violence Counsellor to work on the Laurier campus specifically for university students. We also partnered with Laurier in order to bring in Dr. Vikki Reynolds for 3 events, including the day long “Shouldering Each Other Up” workshop. Our involvement with anti-trafficking initiatives continued with PATH (Partnering Against Trafficking Humans).
In 2017, the Centre was able to develop 3 new programs (Healthy Me, 50+ Better, and Young Women’s group), assumed responsibility of the supervision of the No More Program staff, and began work on the Violence Against Women Advocate Case Review. We increased our hours for our Laurier Sexual Violence Counsellor and worked with 3 summer students on incorporating the TRC recommendations into the operations of our Centre. 2018-2019 had a trans inclusion focus for our frontline volunteers, staff and board.