Vancouver, March 2, 2011

First United Church responds to concerns raised by the Coalition of Women and Women’s Organizations

Recently, a number of incidents occurring at First United Church have led to police charges of sexual assault being laid against individuals.

We deeply regret that our attempts to clarify the circumstances have led to further concern. It is important to state unequivocally that we do not under any circumstances blame the victims and see the safety of the women who come here for shelter as being of paramount importance.

First United has adopted a no-tolerance policy toward sexual assault.

In order to prevent further incidents, we have implemented the following safeguards:

·        Increased staffing in the sleeping area

·        Additional female staff have been hired to monitor the women-only area

·        Women-only area expanded

·        Emergency cell phones have been provided to all staff on the floor

·        Identifiable vests ordered for staff on the floor

·        Met with the police to discuss ways to enhance safety within the building

·        Reviewed staff training policies and procedures.

·        Posted ‘no-tolerance of sexual assault’ signs throughout the building.

First United has invited the Coalition of Women and Women’s Organizations to join us in dialogue to help us forge a constructive response to this issue, to discuss the initiatives we have outlined and to discuss any further ideas they may have.

Ric Matthews, Executive Minister

Sandra Severs, Deputy Executive Minister

For further information, please contact:

Ric Matthews (604) 619-2495   

Sandra Severs (604) 290-2330