Volume 95, Issue 52

Tuesday, December 4, 2001
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UWO, staff reach tentative deal

Female student assaulted

Huron receives the "Wright" donation

Teach-in: Plenty of talk, little discussion

Support for abused women just a call away

What about the table? UWO get research chairs

Even more double cohort discussion

News Briefs

Support for abused women just a call away

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

Help could be just a phone call away for women victimized by violence and abuse.

A new, provincially-funded program called SupportLink is starting soon in London and will provide women with cellular phones pre-programmed to connect to the 911 emergency response line, said Sarah Redfearn, executive director of Victim Services of Middlesex County.

Women must meet six criteria to receive the phones, she explained. Potential recipients must have previously reported an instance of violence or abuse to the police and cannot be currently living with the accused abuser, she explained.

SupportLink is designed with the mandate of long-term safety, Redfearn said. "[Victims] are provided with a support person who works with them to create a safety plan and to set-up a follow-up plan," she said.

Brendan Crawley, spokesman for the provincial Attorney General, said SupportLink specifically targets domestic violence, sexual abuse and stalking.

Because SupportLink requires women to have previously reported a crime against them, there is some concern women who have not previously reported incidents to the police will be neglected, said Tim Kelly, chair of the London Co-ordinating Committee to End Abuse.

Kelly suggested there are several reasons why some women might not feel comfortable turning to the police.

"I would guess there are a lot of reasons," he said. "It would be a very terrifying thing to disrupt your life like that. It takes a lot of effort and courage."

Kelly said he thinks the SupportLink program is a positive step, but is skeptical it can accomplish change on its own.

"I don't think it's a stand alone program, it won't reach everybody," he said, adding SupportLink could be an effective tool if it is part of a broader intervention program to end the abuse of women.

Crawley said aiding as many women as possible is a priority of SupportLink. "We're naturally concerned with the safety of all women. The only logistical way to administer a program like this is with clear and consistent guidelines," he said.

The cellular phones and air time are being provided by Rogers AT&T, Redfearn said. The Attorney General is providing $340,000 for the rest of the fiscal year and $400,000 annually in subsequent years, Crawley added.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001