Published on December 2, 2015 | by Samantha Lindgren Photography by Samantha Lindgren0
Help and healing for sexual assault victims
Chantel’s Place is a light in the dark world of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Located in Mississauga’s Trillium Health Centre and created in honour of women murdered by her partner in 1992, the centre is the No. 1 place to which Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber refer sexual assault victims.
It’s also the first centre of its kind in Canada, offering a range of legal, medical, and counseling services in a warm, soothing environment.
One in five Canadian women will experience sexual assault, and only six percent of those will be reported to police, according to the Act to End Violence Against Women. Furthermore, Mary Addison, a counselor at Chantel’s Place said that, 52 per cent of victims are assaulted at post-secondary schools.
The centre’s vision is to “create a warm, inviting, secure environment where victims/survivors can tell their secrets and fears. A place where we don’t expose them to the chaotic and sterile environment of the hospital emergency ward or the intimidating environment of a police station,” said Inspector Gavin Francis.
Chantel’s Place was spearheaded by at the time Peel Police Officer Gavin Francis and his now fiancée Diane Reynolds.
Francis knew Paquette from earlier cases, “I had known Chantel through my years of working the area where she lived and had arrested the party who had killed her. When we had done the background on Chantel I realized the difficult life that she had been exposed to, and felt that this would be a fitting tribute to her and the many others who are sometimes forgotten and ‘fall through the cracks’,” said Francis.
Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Keeler said that Chantel’s Place has three programs for sexual assault survivors of all ages and genders.
Keeler said that all of the nurses are trained in forensic photography so that the photos they take when the survivors come to Chantel’s Place can be used as evidence in a court.
Chantel’s Place offers counseling services to all who need or want it. Social worker at Chantel’s Place Mary Addison recalled a time where one of her clients were slipped something in her drink while at university. She was in the process of writing a first year exam, but she couldn’t complete it. Ever since that incident she said cannot write anymore exams because it causes a severe trigger, she is now in her fourth year.
Addison mentioned that she had few cases where people in college and university had some sort of substance into their drinks, resulting in a sexual assault.
“I had one client who that something was put in her drink at her own party and she was sexually assaulted and she woke up thinking something’s wrong and couldn’t quite figure out what, so a couple of days later she talked with some of her friends and her mom and she didn’t know what to do so she finally went to the police after two days and the police brought her to Chantel’s Place,” said Addison.
Safety and security are two things that Chantel’s Place want to provide for their survivors, so much so, “We have some security features to prevent somebody from coming unannounced, so we have a camera outside the door that I can see at my desk, who’s coming in and out, it’s a secure area so once you get in the door locks, you can get out but people can’t come in without me opening the door, ” said Keeler.
Chantel’s Place is a 24/7 clinic and counseling service. Chantel’s Place is partnered with the Peel Region police and they opened their doors in November 1998.
When Francis saw what Chantel’s Place did to the survivors when they did a preview before the initial opening he said, “this is how we should be treating our victims.”