Sexual Assault Awareness Week
- Michelle Lerat | May 13, 2020
May 11-15 is Sexual Assault Awareness Week. The Federal Government and the Government of Saskatchewan are committing to new initiatives to reduce sexual violence and increase support to victims and survivors. $1.6 million will also be distributed to agencies that deliver direct support to victims of sexual violence.
Lisa Miller executive director of Regina Sexual Assault Center says this year's mandate for Sexual Assault Awareness Week is ‘no story left untold’. Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan conducted research across the province and found that access to support for sexual violence varies greatly across the province.
“This is even more now,” said Miller. “Because of everything that’s happening. We want to make people aware and we want to make the government(s) aware that we need more equal access [to services] for everyone.”
The funding for 2020-21 will develop a sexual assault examination training program for nurses and care providers in rural, remote, and northern communities. Funding will also go to the future expansion of coverage at Regina hospital emergency rooms, where nurses with sexual assault examination training will be available around-the-clock.
Corrine McArthur is a sexual assault councilor at Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours (SIGN) in Yorkton, SK. She agrees that services are not equally accessible to everyone in Canada, especially for First Nations communities.
“I’m the only First Nations councilor that specializes in sexual assault.,” said McArthur. “I get families and individuals from different agencies and different tribal councils.”
Organizations are operating from a distance due to COVID-19. Crisis lines remain open across the province and councilors are available by telephone or video conferencing.
Miller says the $1.6 million is welcomed news as vulnerable people including women and children are in need of supports.
“Historically we know,” said Miller. “When we're going through times of economic stress like we are right now domestic violence including sexual violence goes up a lot so, we really appreciate both the federal and provincial government's commitment to helping our women and children.”
Initially when the COVID-19 crisis began Miller says organizations saw a decrease in the number of service calls. She says a big increase in service needs came in mid-April.
“We’re all anticipating,” said Miller. “That we’re going to have a pretty drastic increase in request for services once people are safe to actually call for services. Which not everybody is if they live with their abuser and they don’t feel safe going to the hospital for a medical kit.”
The Government of Saskatchewan is also expanding on existing government programs and will include sexual violence education for Saskatchewan justice system professionals along with a provincial wide awareness campaign to challenge and change attitudes about sexual violence.
“We really want to bring awareness to the problem,” said McArthur. “Saskatchewan having the highest rate of interpersonal violence, sexual assault being one, we really need to bring awareness to and really promote intervention, prevention, and breaking the cycle.”
Existing government support for sexual violence programming and awareness include the Philadelphia Model partnership with the Regina Police Service, Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan (SASS), and the Regina Sexual Assault Center launched in 2019
“Keeping citizens safe and free from violence is very important for government,” Minister responsible for the Status of Women Office Tina Beaudry-Mellor says, “We are working to end the patterns which contribute to sexual assault and violence and look forward to the day when all people are free from the threat of physical harm.”
The federal and provincial government acknowledges courage shown by survivors and the support of families, friends, and service providers helping those impacted by sexual violence.