Sexual assault helpline still has no coordinator

In CommunitiesLeave a Comment

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Lidia Abraha

The Sexual Assault Support Survivor Line (SASSL) has not hired a full-time coordinator despite what was outlined in the 2017 referendum.

SASSL successfully campaigned for more funding just over a year ago—an increase of about $186,265 a year. The referendum outlined five new positions: One full-time clinical supervisor, with a background in social work, and four support staff workers to help with the phone lines.

Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) VP Equity Karolina Surowiec, and Equity Campaign Organizer Ruben Perez are still in the process of posting the job description for candidates to apply.

According to RSU president Ram Ganesh, in order for the RSU to open a full-time position in SASSL, they have to go through a number of steps:

  1. They must get the job description approved by the workers’ union.
  2. They need to organize a hiring committee.
  3. Then they publish the job posting internally for two weeks, then externally for a one-week minimum.

It’s been 14 months since the referendum passed, and the job description was recently approved by the workers’ union—step one.

Ganesh said he wanted to improve SASSL’s outreach before hiring a full-time coordinator.

“SASSL was getting about one call per week, the numbers weren’t that great. This showed us that there were some really big issues with the way we even structured SASSL,” said Ganesh.

He said that Cassandra Myers, a former SASSL coordinator who led the funding campaign, helped with a new proposal for the centre, and that they are ready to put up a job posting for the position. Myers said she spent a lot of time over the summer pushing RSU executives to hire a full-time coordinator for SASSL.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that a coordinator hasn’t been hired and there’s been ample time to do so,” said Myers. “I have prepared a whole year’s worth of programming that our staff currently doesn’t have the capacity for because they are working on a part-time basis.”

Perez said he plans to bring on a professional from the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre to train staff at SASSL in the next couple of weeks.

“Imagine you have a company that’s not working so well, [and then you] hire a CEO. The CEO can only do so much in terms of outreach, because the company is not there, no one really knows about it,” said Perez. “What we’re trying to do is really build a foundation for SASSL to get students to know about SASSL, as much as the [Good Food Centre] or any other services that we have. Once we have that base set up, then we bring in someone that solidifies it in a way.”

“All of those things that we have promised at the referendum, I don’t think we can follow through on them unless we have a full-time person”

Perez said that it’s a priority to hire a full-time clinical supervisor for SASSL as outlined in the referendum, “It just takes a little longer than expected. We increased [staff] hours at SASSL and [the Good Food Centre] because they’ve been doing a lot more outreach.”

Suroweic said that she said besides outreach, she was busy hiring an equity & campaigns organizer over the summer and helping him transition during the Fall semester. In order to accommodate the needs and services of the centre she’s increased the number of staff from one coordinator to three.

“This is kind of a trial year because we just got the funding. You need to see what to do with it. Do we spend it on programming? Do we spend it on staff members? How many staff members do we need to actually sustain this and to become a great service for students?” said Suroweic.

Myers said that she’s not confident that hiring a full-time coordinator is a priority. She left the centre before the Fall term started since she graduated.

“All of those things that we have promised at the referendum, I don’t think we can follow through on them unless we have a full-time person. That’s just being dishonest to the students,” said Myers.

Leave a Comment