The Willow Room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020. (Ann Davis Transitional Society)

The Willow Room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020. (Ann Davis Transitional Society)

New ‘trauma-informed’ reporting room opening next week in Chilliwack

The ‘Willow Room’ is for reporting domestic violence, sexual, or gender-based violence to police

It’s estimated that only about 10 per cent of domestic violence, sexual assault, and gender-based violence ever gets reported to police.

The partners who’ve come together to carve out a safe space for women to report these incidents in Chilliwack are hoping to change that.

“To my knowledge this will be the first of its kind in the province,” Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the Ann Davis Transition Society. “It’s the way things should be done.”

The Willow Room will be located at 9046 Young Road in Chilliwack. It was specially designed as a “soft reporting” room to give victims of domestic violence and sexual assault an alternative to telling their story in the cold, institutional atmosphere of an RCMP detachment.

The Willow Room project, opening on Dec. 1, came about from a partnership between Ann Davis, the RCMP Domestic Violence Unit, Wilma House, Pearl Renewal Society, and Sto:lo Women. It will be available 24/7 with a crisis worker to help create in a trauma-informed, culturally sensitive and supported environment to talk about what happened with police.

A UBC study was commissioned by Ann Davis officials on the various obstacles to women reporting this type of violent crime.

“This is really needed,” MacAhonic underlined.

Using trauma-informed interview techniques will be key to creating a trauma-informed space and fostering trust. The room is set up to be culturally welcoming as well.

“Having a safe trauma informed space for women to report in our community is vital for their wellbeing,” said Kathleen Mosa, executive director of Wilma House.

When someone calls the RCMP and asks for this service, or if one of the project partners does, those responding will have training needed for a timely response, with sensitivity, access to resources, and follow-up ability.

MacAhonic said the new space will wholly redefine how they help people who are ready to file RCMP reports on these types of violent and damaging crimes.

By calling the RCMP and asking for this “Willow Room” service, or by calling direct to 604-792-3116, it will be available as of next Tuesday.

Law enforcement plays a crucial role in supporting survivors, and they are uniquely positioned to do so.

“The responding officer’s awareness of the needs of those reporting, common responses to victimization, and the particular needs of distinct victim populations can help the officer avoid a re-victimization.”

When survivors are ready to tell their stories it can go either way.

“Disclosing a traumatic event has the potential to be an affirming or re-traumatizing experience,” MacAhonic added.

“Those who work extensively with women want to ensure that women are being heard, supported and not further victimized, and that is why this important project has been put in place.”

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