Ontario recently announced a plan to create comprehensive network of services to specifically address the needs of male victims of sexual violence. The government will invest $2.2 million over two years to create the network. The network will include existing services that will coordinate to provide training and education to help male victims. This is one the few instances where a government chose to address the issue of sexual violence against males, and to my knowledge the only instance of a government investing millions of dollars to help male victims.
However, the move is not without its critics:
Yes, the provincial funding is a serious and, I’d suggest, sincere acknowledgement of the need to help male survivors of sexual abuse. But it’s only a trickle of funding. If men want more, they are going to have to fight for it, just like the women did and continue to do.
“You start somewhere and you see where the demand is. This is an estimate of what will be required,” said Chris Bentley, attorney general and London West MPP, who defended the new system while hinting the funding could rise as demand rises.
Bentley said the agencies were chosen based on their ability to help survivors. Somehow, with perverse irony, Bentley and others think the Roman Catholic church can help. For instance, the Men’s Project in Ottawa, a counselling centre many consider the role model for its work with male survivors, was rejected as the lead agency overseeing regional services. No, that job went to a Catholic-based agency.
Then there are the sexual assault centres that for decades ignored these men — and rightly so — to focus on women, that are now getting the funding, despite objections from some male survivors who say women’s centres are ill-suited and have mostly been unwilling to help in the past.
The latter is a troubling revelation because many of those centers may not actually use the funds to help male victims. So far there has been no mention of any oversight to ensure the funds go where they are needed and, more importantly, mandated to go.
Another problem is that existing organization like the Men’s Project may get left to the side. The articles seems to suggest that these organizations may lose their funding as the money gets shifted to the broader network.
The glaring problem, however, is just how little money this adds up to:
Each region will receive about $215,000 a year and the province-wide crisis line will receive about $150,000 a year, the ministry said.
“The amount of funding doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is needed,” said John Swales, a London survivor and advocate.
Even a small agency such as Hearing Healing Hope of Owen Sound spends about $75,000 a year on helping a caseload of seven men. That agency received an award Thursday from the Ministry of the Attorney General for helping victims of crime.
“It’s less than a cup of coffee per survivor,” said Tom Wilken, founder of Silence to Hope. But he added, “a cup of coffee is better than no cup at all.”
At this stage, something is better than nothing. It took years to get to this stage, and the recent change occurred due to the hard work of organizations like the Men’s Project, not organizations focused on helping women. Since the latter does not provide much assistance to male victims, even this small funding could go a long way to getting some men and boys the help they need. It is also possible that if the request for help is great that the Ontario government may increase the funding to meet the demand.