Program part of province's strategy to combat internet crimes against children
Ontario’s counselling program that aims to assist young victims of online sexual exploitation and their families has received positive feedback, according to a review commissioned by the Department of Justice Canada.
The review consisted of surveys and interviews with participants, including victims and their families, counsellors, and program administrators, to explore the impact, support practices, and administration of Ontario’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Counselling Program. Established in 2010, the program provides short-term counselling referrals for young victims of online sexual exploitation and their immediate family members.
The program was part of the province’s strategy to combat internet crimes against children and remains the only one of its kind in Canada.
Based on the review, the program earned “overwhelming” praise from all the participants because it helped them address “unique harms” caused by online child sexual exploitation. They also applauded the “minimal wait time” between referral and counselling since other mental health services usually have prolonged wait times.
Moreover, all the participants agreed that because of the program, victims and their family members had established a “safe and trusted relationship” with their counsellors, which forms the foundation of all counselling work.
To improve several aspects of the program, the participants recommended that the province provide specialized clinical training and supervision specific to trauma-focused, short-term counselling for victims and optional psychoeducation and orientation to new victims and their family members.
They also suggested that the province increase funding for victims who need more counselling, enhance administrative infrastructure, and improve invoicing systems.
Meanwhile, all counsellors and administrators stressed the need to employ a trauma-informed framework, which recognizes that clients may be traumatized or re-traumatized by any treatment approach or service provision that is not sensitive to the variable effects of trauma resulting from online child sexual exploitation.
“Counsellors and administrators all reported that they were sensitive to these requirements and that the suggestions they offered could increase their ability to provide trauma-informed services to the victims,” Justice Canada said.