Meet Sandy, Executive Director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. The ORCC is a local organization that advocates for equitable communities and supports women who have experienced sexual violence.
My name is Sandy, and I’m the Executive Director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. I’ve worked there for 10 years. I have adult children who are all in their 20s, so we like to hang out. I like to read a lot, although there’s not a lot of time for it. I also like to do needlecraft – crochet, needlepoint, that sort of thing.
I was raised in Oshawa, but born in England. My mom came over to Canada because she got a nursing job in Oshawa. I went to elementary school and high school in Oshawa, and then I went to the University of Windsor and did a degree in Sociology and Criminology, and then to the University of Toronto for a certificate in Human Resources. I worked in Toronto for over 10 year, in the Public Health Department as a Community Development Worker. Coming to Ottawa was a little hard, because I loved Toronto. I love the craziness, how there were so many people, the crazy highways. I just loved it.
What brought you to Ottawa?
My partner got a job in Ottawa, so we decided as a family to move here. My partner and my kids moved here and I stayed in Toronto for a year to finish up some work. I travelled back and forth, which was challenging! I saw an ad in the paper – in those days they still had job ads in the paper! – for a Sexual Assault Network Coordinator. I got that position and did that for a couple of years, and then I moved to the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. I’ve been there ever since.
Can you tell me a little about what the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre does?
Yeah, for sure! So, the organization is 36 years old now. We’re in a confidential location, but it’s right downtown, so it’s pretty central. We have a 24-hour crisis line program that is operated by trained volunteers, supported by a coordinator. That’s our first line of contact. Then, we have a counselling program where we provide short-term crisis counselling. For example, if you were assaulted last night you could call the crisis line the next day and say that you needed to talk to someone. You can get up to six appointments. If after that you want longer-term counselling, we can offer up to 42 sessions. We also have a number of group therapy counselling sessions.
We also have a public education program, which trains volunteers to talk about sexual harassment and abuse in schools, workplaces, high schools, universities, and colleges as well as at all kinds of events. We try to be very visible. The public education program is also responsible for things like connecting with the media, providing statistics, and research.
Domestic violence and sexual violence kind of split into two separate issues in the public conscience, and politically it’s more palatable for the government to deal with domestic violence publicly. Sexual violence has kind of fallen off of the political radar, off the table. One of our challenges is to increase the visibility of sexual violence, and get it on the same table as domestic violence. I think the aversion is related to the fact that sex is used as a weapon and there are so many different attitudes and approaches to sex, especially in a public forum. We face a visibility issue, and a general acceptance issue.
We did your photos along the Rockcliffe Parkway – why is that an important place for you?
Most mornings I drive down the Rockcliffe Parkway on my way to work. It’s so beautiful, and the changes of the seasons are really nice. It always looks different. I like seeing the water first thing in the morning. I get to kind of take a deep breath and feel calm before I get to work. The other nice thing I like about travelling down that road is that there are always country flags of visiting dignitaries, so I always get a reminder of who’s visiting Ottawa.
Thank you, Sandy! To find out more about the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, visit their website at http://orcc.net.