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Alberta invests $5M in Little Warriors amid increase in child sexual abuse cases

The Be Brave Ranch treatment facility. (Little Warriors) The Be Brave Ranch treatment facility. (Little Warriors)
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The province is investing $5 million in the Little Warriors organization over the next three years to combat rising child sexual abuse numbers.

Since 2008, Little Warriors has worked to raise awareness, prevent and help survivors of sexual abuse against children and youths.

"The sad and troubling reality is that one-in-three Albertans have experienced sexual abuse while under the age of 18," said Searle Turton, minister of children and family services. "That includes 24 per cent of boys and 44 per cent of girls, according to the Alberta association of sexual assault services."

"These experiences can result in a range of negative outcomes including aggression, depression, anxiety, self-harm and PTSD, and continue into adulthood in the form of addiction, mental illness and suicidality," added the province in a news release.

Little Warriors offers online programs and other educational tools to help teach children and youth about boundaries, consent and self-care. It also has workshops for adults to help prevent and respond to abuse.

In 2014, Little Warriors opened the Be Brave Ranch, a specialized, intensive trauma-informed and evidence-based treatment centre. It is the only facility of its kind in Canada, according to Turton.

"Independent Research shows that for every $1 invested in Little Warriors, our programs save $11 in social services because children and teens that we serve go on to avoid addiction, criminal justice interactions, health-care needs, and other services due to their improved outcomes," said Jennifer Martin, the CEO of Little Warriors.

Annually, Little Warriors works with around 500 people through the teen, children and family programs, as well as around 7,000 people in Canada through the prevention programs, according to Martin.

This new funding will be primarily dedicated to the Be Brave Ranch, allowing for higher intake numbers.

"The need is massive, we are seeing exponential growth in child sexual abuse," Martin said. "We're seeing rising acuity since COVID, no one in the space is really sure why just yet, not a huge chance to research that… it's just worse."

Earlier this year the province announced $10 million in funding over the next three years to sexual assault centres and women's shelters. The province will continue to provide $3.4 million annually to child and youth advocacy centres, Turton added.

"Keeping children safe is everybody's responsibility and I encourage every Albertan to learn how to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect, and how to report concerns about a child's well being," Turton said.

Reports of child abuse can be made by calling the Child Intervetion provincial intake line at 1-800-638-0715. If you or the person you are reporting for is in immediate danger, you are advised to call 911.

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