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Barrie Police get funding for child sexual assault advocacy centre

Local OPP also receiving grant
abused child AdobeStock_58313921 2016
File photo

Child victims of sexual assault in Barrie will soon be able to access support and services right here at home.

Barrie Police are getting a $139,363 grant from the province to establish a Child Advocacy Centre of Barrie.

The money will go towards implementing a child and youth focused sexual assault advocacy centre in Barrie to "effectively coordinate responses to child sexual abuse cases," according to the government.

The centre will provide a single child and youth-friendly location for services that aims to reduce victim trauma.

Services will be geared towards survivors under the age of 24. 

Veteran Barrie Police Sgt. Valerie Gates says officers are 'ecstatic.'  

"Definitely it's needed. Last year alone we investigated just in Barrie with the Children's Aid Society 934 joint investigations. Those are kids under the age of 16 so you can imagine that isn't even getting the entire population that we're going to be serving," said Gates.

"I don't think people realize we're not immune to it in the city of Barre."

The closest Child Advocacy Centre to Barrie right now is located in Orillia which was founded in 2014.

Officials are hoping to open the doors on the new centre in September and construction is expected to get underway soon at the location on Cedar Pointe Drive. 

The funding is part of $1.8 million Ontario is putting toward 15, two-year pilot projects aimed at improving police response to sexual violence.

The pilot projects "will provide a more compassionate, sensitive response when survivors of sexual violence come forward and report their experiences," the government stated in a news release. 

"The projects will also enhance police investigative practices, with a goal of building stronger cases and improving justice system outcomes."

This initiative is part of It's Never Okay, Ontario's action plan to end sexual violence and harassment. 

The OPP Central Region received $150,000 to establish a sexual assault safe centre to improve victims' experiences.

The government says the centre will have a 'multi-disciplinary team' made up of professionals from medical, police and support services to better support victims. Examinations and interviews will take place with a victim advocate in a secure, private and comfortable location.

The next call for funding applications is expected to be issued to police services in spring 2018.

Barrie Police say they will need to secure more funding for the centre and will be looking to the community for help.