We have been supporting survivors for 46 years. We will be back, stronger than ever.
The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) first opened its doors on December 15th, 1974. Since then, we have been at the forefront of leadership and innovation in addressing sexual violence. From establishing one of the first 24-hour crisis lines in the country, dispelling rape myths through public education, to tirelessly working towards institutional accountability in our justice system and policing, we have always looked for new ways to better support survivors.
The time has now come to make some necessary changes so that we can better serve our community, not just during the pandemic but also in the long-term. Safety for our service users is our guiding principle, and this remains truer than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ORCC is not unique in the fact that the pandemic has raised many challenges to timely, reliable and effective program delivery. This is not for lack of trying on the part of our dedicated staff and board members. Like so many organizations early in the pandemic, we rolled up our sleeves and tried to pivot to virtual service delivery. However, we have learned that our outdated IT infrastructure requires a significant overhaul before we can responsibly and ethically integrate secure video platforms and cloud-based recordkeeping systems into new modes of program delivery. In addition, our physical location is in a building that, due to its age, requires extensive retrofits before we can resume in-person service in a manner that meets public health and safety requirements.
All of these challenges have severely impacted the ORCC’s ability to consistently and reliably serve survivors. When survivors come to us, they need to know that we can support them in a timely manner, rather than being placed on an ever- growing waitlist. They also need to know that once their journey of healing starts with us, we have the internal capacity and means to ensure that it will continue uninterrupted. At this stage, it is undeniable that our ability to maintain this commitment is severely compromised. We must acknowledge the detrimental impact on survivors who reach out for support, only to be told they have to wait for an indefinite period of time before they can receive help.
Furthermore, the ORCC is long overdue for a strategic assessment of our core programs and services. Not only are there opportunities to reduce overlap with other service providers; but we must better leverage public funding to ensure that we are more responsive, relevant and accessible to those survivors that face the greatest barriers to support. It is imperative that we develop and implement new strategies to effectively serve BIPOC folks, the trans community, newcomers, the differently abled, the economically marginalized, and rural residents. As we re- evaluate our approach, this will be a key area of focus.
For all of these reasons, the ORCC will be working with leadership at partnering organizations to ensure that no survivor is left behind, while we make the changes necessary to ensure our organization’s sustainability and effectiveness in the long- term. For every survivor out there: please know that we will ensure that you get the support that you need. And, we look forward to launching new programs and services that are more relevant and responsive to your needs in the near future.
While the time has clearly come to streamline and modernize our organization in many ways, change is never easy. As we enter into this period of organizational restructuring and renewal, we must acknowledge the impact on our employees, and thank the passionate and dedicated staff of the ORCC for their unwavering commitment to survivors – not just during this challenging time, but throughout the organization’s history. They have served as supports and resources to survivors in moments of distress and vulnerability, and we thank them for their steadfast commitment to the ORCC’s goals and mandate.
Finally, to the community at large: we need your support now, more than ever. We will be reaching out in many ways to get your feedback about how best to support survivors in the future and keep you posted on our progress. By working together, we can make sure that the ORCC will be here in the decades to come, to provide support to those that need it most.
The Board of Directors of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre