KITCHENER -- There are more people who need help in Waterloo Region now than ever before.

“Our front line services, so folks reaching out for individual counselling, we've seen a 55 per cent increase from this time last year,” said Sara Casselman, the Executive Director for the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo region.

Casselman says because of the pandemic coping methods like seeing friends or dropping by the Sexual Assault Support Centre aren't recommended.

“And right now we're seeing nine times more clients than we did last year who had completed service with us and now they're reaching out for support again,” said Casselman.

With the need for services growing throughout the pandemic, the Sexual Assault Support Centre has increased its staffing for their 24-hour hotline, and have added a new online chat support option.

According to Casselman, in the last three months, they have seen a 300 per cent increase in online support group participation, with roughly 140 people still on the waitlist for individual services.

The fact that SASC is able to continue services during the pandemic in a new way, I think [the pandemic] is detrimental to the healing of survivors,” said Dianne, a sexual assault survivor.

Now, they've partnered with a local pottery store for a holiday inspired fundraiser, selling Christmas ornament kits with a portion of the proceeds going to the support centre.

“It was really, really special to get the initial phone call to learn all about what they do for young kids to women to anyone affected by this so to do just a little bit to help was super meaningful to me personally,” said Shailen Vadera, the owner of Crock A Doodle in Waterloo.

“You can actually call SASC the main office and speak to probably any person that answers the phone and just say I’m scared to reach out, but I’m here. You can call the crisis line and say I’m scared to call the office, but I’m here making this call,” said Dianne.

More services in Waterloo-Wellington are available here.