(Mike Farnworth/BC Gov News)

The provincial government in B.C. has announced a $10 million boost to grants supporting organizations that help sexual assault survivors.

This new program provides funding for three years and will be administered by the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office and the Minister’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Women (MACIW).

In a press briefing on Tuesday morning, Tracy Porteous, executive director, EVA BC, noted that sexual/domestic violence is one of the few crimes that is known to continually increase during the period of COVID-19 lockdown, despite fewer reports being made.

See also: No spike in domestic abuse police reports in Victoria during lockdown, but experts concerned

Statistics Canada reports that only five per cent of sexual assault cases are reported to police, and during the stay-at-home period of the pandemic, experts believe domestic violence victims are not able to access support services as a result of being stuck at home, potentially with violent abusers.

“Gender-based violence, including sexual assault, can increase during times of crisis, and that’s why our government continues to prioritize services and supports for survivors of these devastating crimes,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in a statement.

“This grant program will help organizations throughout the province provide sexual assault survivors with swift access to compassionate and comprehensive care.”

The $10 million funding will be allocated to local organizations across B.C. that provide emergency sexual assault response services that are trauma informed and culturally appropriate.

These grants will be provided in addition to the annual $40 million funding that the province currently allocates to organizations providing sexual assault response services.

See also: B.C. announces paid leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence

In the beginning of March 2020, the NDP government also introduced an amendment to the Employment Standards Act to provide up to five days of paid leave for anyone facing domestic or sexual violence.

This new legislation builds on measures introduced by the government last year that guaranteed 10 unpaid, job-protected days of leave for victims of domestic or sexual violence.

If the amendment is passed, it would mean that five of those 10 days will be paid for.