Creating Safe Digital Spaces with SACE

The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, thanks to a $20,000 ECF grant, created digital resources and online courses for people experiencing sexual violence.

There’s power in social media, and that’s one takeaway the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) learned when the pandemic made in-person services impossible.

Counselling, court support and public education are just some of the services that SACE offers, but COVID-19 forced them to re-evaluate their delivery.

“Many of our services relied on in-person delivery, and we quickly realized we had to make some accommodations to the delivery of our work if we were going to continue to care for our clients virtually,” said Lena Betker, Public Relations and Community Development Manager at SACE.

SACE provides free services to people aged three and up who’ve been impacted by sexual violence. The centre shut its doors to limit the virus’s spread, which left many without the services they use frequently.

While SACE had a strong website and social media presence before the pandemic, they realized they needed to change how they produce content.

“Before the pandemic, we were sharing broad content like stuff that was going on at SACE, but the pandemic forced us to be a lot more intentional about what we were sharing,” Betker said. “We tried to think strategically about what our clients need to hear from us, and how to deliver that in the best way possible.”

A $20,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation’s (ECF) Rapid Response Fund allowed SACE to create a digital plan that would enable them to offer their services virtually, as well as new digital resources.

“It’s really not an option for SACE to suspend their services,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement said. “Their digital plan allows them to continue doing their essential work.”

One project SACE created is counselling resource packages for adults and youth. The packages are designed for people on SACE’s counselling wait-list to inform them about healing from sexual trauma.

SACE also created two online courses that run monthly. One course offers information on how to support a loved one who has experienced sexual violence, and the second course is about recognizing and responding to sexual violence. So far, 150 people have completed or are currently  taking a class through SACE.

“Edmonton Community Foundation has been a massive supporter of ours for a long time, and over the years, we’ve been able to do so much more and do our work so much better because of their generosity,” said Betker.

Through social media and the digital resources they’ve created, SACE has connected with the community more than they used to.

“We have a stronger presence online, and so we’re engaging with the community a lot more through social media and our website,”  Betker said. “And that’s what we were trying to do, is remind our community that we’re in this together, we are still here, and they can reach out to us for support whenever they need it.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.