Programs & Services

Online Peer Support Discussion Platform launched for sexual misconduct victims

An online peer support discussion platform was launched by the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) to provide a safe space for victims and their families to connect.

This is the first feature of the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Peer Support Program.

“People affected by sexual misconduct often describe the isolation that they experience in trying to access support groups for sexual assault and online peer support. This online peer support discussion platform aims to allow all members of the Defence Team, Veterans and their families to feel comfortable in seeking support from their peers in a safe, confidential and user-friendly online environment. It is with comprehensive support services like the MST Peer Support Program as well as other expanded services such as independent legal advice that we can ensure members of our Defence Team have the resources they need and deserve in their healing journeys,” said Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence.

Discussion Boards

The online discussion boards are hosted by a third-party platform called Togetherall. According to the Department of National Defence, Togetherall is a confidential and anonymous platform that also provides clinical oversight. According to DND, the SMRC has awarded Togetherall an initial 18-month contract allowing end-users to access the platform at no cost.

The SMRC offers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, confidential person-centered support services to currently serving and former CAF members and DND public service employees who have been affected by sexual misconduct.

The platform will be available to current and former Canadian Armed Forces members, as well as Department of National Defence public service employees and their families.

The goal is that the discussion boards will offer a space for victims to foster “peer-to-peer connection, mental resilience and wellness amongst persons with lived experience of sexual misconduct.”

In the future, the SMRC is also looking to add text and chat-based peer support, one-on-one and group in-person peer support to the MST Peer Support Program.

“The MST online discussion forum will be a much-needed safe space to connect, learn and support each other through their healing and recovery for those who have experienced military sexual misconduct. This is the first of several new peer support options that will be available to Veterans and CAF members affected by military sexual trauma. We will continue to ensure Veterans have the supports they need and deserve,” said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.

Expanding Services

The SMRC also recently expanded the Response and Support Coordination (RSC) program beyond the National Capital Region (Ottawa/Gatineau) to Nunavut, Québec, and Pacific (British Columbia and Yukon) regions. This program has been offered since 2019.

Response and Support Coordinators provide “remote and in-person support and assistance that can include case coordination, advocacy, accompaniment, assistance with workplace arrangements and other practical matters,” according to DND.

In the next year, the SMRC will continue to expand the RSC program across the country.

Additionally, the SMRC is offering the Restorative Engagement (RE) program mandated through the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Final Settlement Agreement.

“[The SMRC] wishes to communicate to class members that the Minister of National Defence created an exception to the duty to report in the context of the RE program. Class members who haven’t yet expressed interest in participating in the RE program and that haven’t yet received their initial decision letter have 30 days from receiving it to opt into the program by contacting the claims administrator,” stated a DND press release.

About the SMRC

The SMRC offers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, confidential person-centered support services to currently serving and former CAF members and DND public service employees who have been affected by sexual misconduct.

The Military Sexual Trauma Peer Support Program received an investment of $236.2 million in the Budget 2021.

“Our team has been working diligently towards our long-term vision of offering a seamless continuum of care to those affected by sexual misconduct. We are happy to now be able to offer some of those important services. With the new online peer support group discussion platform, through Togetherall, the Response and Support coordinators now available in-person in Québec, Nunavut and Pacific regions and the exception to the Duty to Report within the context of Restorative Engagement, we are able to increase the range of services to help those affected by sexual misconduct heal from the harms they have suffered. We continue to work on developing other much-needed services and hope to offer those to the community in the coming months,” said Shoba Ranganathan, acting executive director Sexual Misconduct Response Centre.

Individuals who need support can contact the SMRC 24/7 support line at 1-844-750-1648. Trained counsellors can also be reached by email here.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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