Sexual Violence in the Strait Area
Sexual violence is a reality impacting every community across Nova Scotia and the Strait Area. Research approximates that on average one in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence.1-3 Despite this high prevalence, however, cases of sexual assault often go unreported. Across Canada, 19 out of 20 (i.e. 95%) victims/survivors do not report incidents to police, indicating a lack of trust or limited initiative by police as common barriers to disclosure.4 Many victims/survivors also indicate shame and stigma as barriers to help-seeking.5-7 For others, a lack of access to appropriate services, including limited transportation, few or no sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) in their region, and so forth, present barriers.8-10
Yet, while such a high prevalence is conducive to alarm, and noted barriers leave seemingly little hope for providers, there is evidence to suggest that sexual violence is entirely preventable.11 In response to wider recognition of sexual violence as a development, health, and human rights issue, community responses are emerging globally as a potential way to address and mitigate this cycle of violence.12-14 Likewise, communities across Canada, as well as internationally, have increasingly begun to implement sexual assault response and prevention strategies in the wake of global movements such as the 2017 #Me Too and Time’s Up.15 Together, this information highlights the important role that Strait Area communities may play in sexual assault response and prevention. Therefore using successful response and prevention models from global communities, and guided by evidence-based research and theory, it is our goal to continue this momentum by contributing to local initiatives through advocacy, collaboration, coordination, and supportership.
Who is our target?
Our current project is set in eastern Nova Scotia in communities across the Strait Area. This region was identified by the Government of Nova Scotia as a priority area, and is of interest given sexual violence resources and services are often limited or found at a distance.
Mission and Guiding Principles
Our mission is not to “re-invent the wheel” by creating new and innovative resources or services. Instead, our mission is to take existing resources, and ensure that they are accessible, culturally and contextually appropriate, and utilized. In order for this to occur, several principles guide our current work:
- Community involvement — engaging community members, providers, and informal supports in a dialogue surrounding sexual assault, how to respond to victims/survivors, and for those who are interested, what further actions they may take
- Collaboration and coordination among providers — fostering supportership throughout the referral process in order to promote and facilitate effective response and prevention initiatives
- Informing future generations — involving young individuals in conversations surrounding topics such as consent and healthy relationships, increasing awareness of available resources, and developing an understanding that an individual of any gender identity, sexual orientation, race, etc. can be a victim/survivor of sexual assault
By working together, and following these principles of advocacy, collaboration, coordination, and supportership, we believe that Strait Area communities can, and will, achieve effective sexual violence response and prevention systems.
Current and Upcoming Projects
- Multisectoral collaboration and referral are two of the most important elements of effective response and prevention systems. For one, oftentimes victims/survivors present themselves at one service (e.g. physician’s office), yet require another, or more than one (e.g. safety, social support, economic security, housing, legal protection, and so forth). In fact, research illustrates that victims/survivors who experience the most beneficial support and successful recovery are those who receive services from multiple providers. Similarly, while victims/survivors may present themselves for assistance at one service, their needs may be best met by another agency or service provider. For instance, if a victim/survivor discloses, yet that individual lacks requisite training, further victimization and re-traumatization are possible. In such situations, the informal support or provider is also at risk for burnout or secondary traumatization, especially if they are a victim/survivor themselves. Therefore the following Guide for Community Support Services in the Strait Area was created to equip victims/survivors, community members, providers, and informal supports with the information that they need to effectively and efficiently refer victims/survivors to appropriate services. In doing so, it is our hope to continue supporting collaborative, multisectoral response and prevention systems throughout the Strait Area. If you would like printed copies of this resource, please see the contact information below. A link to the PDF Strait Area Sexual Assault Referral Guide is also available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LwhQh7uv5imvx4-WGWo-wd0lKfBMyokL/view?usp=sharing.
- Globally, response and prevention initiatives often gravitate toward response, focusing on the steps to take immediately after the incident has occurred. This pilot project, however, involves looking at sexual violence as the global public health, development, and human rights issue that it is, and beginning to think through the ways that Strait Area communities can prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place. Our first project is a Community Resource Guide developed for all community members, which discretely incorporates resources that could be utilized in primary prevention (i.e. before violence has occurred), secondary prevention (i.e. immediately after violence has occurred), and tertiary prevention (i.e. long-term resources after violence has occurred). In doing so, not only is the resource discrete, but it also has the capacity to reach, and plausibly assist, a much wider population. To date, a Community Resource Guide has been created for the Antigonish Area. This is the initial step of our pilot project, as we continue to meet, speak, and work with service providers from communities across the Strait Area, gathering information for Guysborough, Richmond, and Inverness’ guides. The final guides will be posted here, and continuously updated, however, please check back regularly as a Strait Area Community Resource website will be created in the new year. Here, residents will be able to easily access the information on available services and resources presented in the guides through an independent website that connects them to needed services and information. For now, a link to our first guide, the Antigonish Town and County Community Resource List, is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uGhsFFT0gSqPGIGxJ2HpUfZtc5QuMx3Q/view?usp=sharing.
- The following poster was featured within a New Yorker article addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. After tracking down the collaborators, one in San Francisco, the other in New York, and countless phone calls with organizations across the province, a poster design specifically for Nova Scotians was created. This educational poster campaign will not only advocate for existing services, but also guide individuals through the appropriate measures to take as they navigate this system. While the final poster is being created, the original poster is attached below, but check back regularly for the final version. If you would like a printed copy for your workplace, please get in touch. A link to the free PDF will also be added here once completed.
- Workshops on “Sensitive Caring” and “Preventing Sexual Violence and Responding to Disclosures” will be offered to community members, providers, and informal supports across the Strait Area. You may be wondering why you would participate in one of the workshops, or thinking that there is no need to participate given that you don’t, or have never, come into contact with victims/survivors of sexual violence. The reality, however, is that one in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence, meaning that the majority of us have, knowingly or unknowingly, come into contact with someone who has been impacted.
- Sensitive Caring Workshop: One of the primary reasons that contact with victims/survivors remains unknown is that the majority of victims/survivors do not disclose their experience. It may be that victims/survivors do not understand why they feel the way that they do, it may be that they do not know what to say, it may be that they fear not being believed, it may be that they feel immense shame—no matter the situation, as community members, providers, and informal supports, it is important to recognize our role in sexual violence response and prevention, which begins with sensitive caring. Let’s begin with one example. As many dentists, dental hygienists, and community members know, dental phobia is a reality for many individuals, experiencing nervousness and tension leading up to, and during, dental appointments. What many do not realize, however, is that for victims/survivors of sexual violence, this may be further compounded by the sensory sensitivity of their oral area and preexisting trauma. Not only does this manifest in discomfort at the time of the dental session, but without requisite training, the provider may unknowingly increase the victim/survivor’s risk for re-traumatization. This is only one of a myriad of examples, which is why this training is not only for providers—such as counsellors, therapists, doctors, social workers—but also informal supports, such as teachers, coworkers, coaches, and others, who knowingly and unknowingly come into contact with victims/survivors. Topics such as respectful and trauma-informed caring, building awareness and knowledge of sexual violence, victim/survivor-oriented rapport-building, sharing control throughout appointments or encounters, and much more, will be covered in these sessions, and tailored to specific audiences.
- Preventing Sexual Violence and Responding to Disclosures Workshop: These sessions will also be offered to community members, providers, and informal supports across the Strait Area. In many ways, you can think of this workshop as answering key questions, such as: what does sexual violence look like across the Strait Area? How can it be prevented? Where do I start? If a victim/survivor discloses sexual violence, what do I do? How do I react? Do I help? Where do they go? Should I accompany them? What is my responsibility? What information can I provide? How can I support the victim/survivor? Whether these are questions that you have asked yourself before, or those that you have never had to ask, consider being prepared to assist yourself, a friend, family member, neighbour, coworker, fellow student, or stranger.
- All sessions will take place across the Strait Area throughout 2019. They will be conducted by trained staff and developed with the support of experts within respective fields. For a list of scheduled workshops, and to sign-up, please check back in January 2019. If you are interested in scheduling a workshop, please get in touch.
- The Antigonish Family Violence Prevention Interagency is organizing several events throughout Family Violence Prevention Week, February 10-16. Keep your calendar open, as all events will be FREE and open to ALL community members. As February approaches, we will post the updated schedule of events here. Flyers will also be distributed throughout the community, and expect advertisements on the radio, social media, etc.
- We are also in the process of collaboratively organizing a Sexual Violence Response and Prevention conference for the spring at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. The conference is open to Strait Area community members, providers, and informal supports, and will include topics such as: trafficking and sexual exploitation, multisectoral referral and collaboration, responding to disclosures, workplace sexual harassment, culturally appropriate and relevant care, trauma-informed practice, and more. Please check back regularly for up-to-date information, including access to tickets through our Eventbrite page. If you are interested in volunteering at this event, please see the contact information below.
- A “One Blue String” concert will be held in summer 2019. “One Blue String” is a campaign that began in the US, and involves replacing one of six guitar strings with a blue one, which is symbolic of the one in six males who are victims/survivors of sexual violence. Date to be announced in January 2019, and tickets will go on sale at that time.
- After much thought and collaboration, we will be bringing Sexual Assault: The Roadshow to communities across the Strait Area. This is a pop-up art gallery featuring works that speak back to sexual violence. Four artistic directors, one from each Strait Area county, will endeavour to feature the work of local artists and content specifically for respective communities in their region. Special presentations featuring guest performers from various artistic modalities and expressions (e.g. dance, poetry evenings, music, etc.) will also take place. Importantly, this will be a welcoming space for all community members, providers, and informal supports to congregate, increasing awareness and initiative as a collective. Prevention begins with communities, and what better way to engage in a dialogue than to showcase communities’ own creativity to effect hope, strength, and change. If you are interested in volunteering at any point throughout the Roadshow, please see the contact information below. More information to come in spring and summer 2019.
- The Strait Area Sexual Violence Prevention and Supports Newsletter is an electronic subscription to keep up-to-date on ongoing projects and events occurring across the Strait Area. Our first newsletter will be released January 2019, and will continue on a quarterly basis. To sign-up, please subscribe at: https://averycarter.typeform.com/to/nLIj8w. Newsletters will also be available for viewing here, with a PDF link attached.
- Many other projects “to be announced,” so again, check back regularly, visit the Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia Facebook page, and sign-up for the Strait Area Sexual Violence Prevention and Supports Newsletter. Thanks for stopping by!
Who to contact?
My name is Avery Carter and I am the Sexual Violence Prevention and Supports Programme Coordinator for Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia. If you are looking for more information, hoping to collaborate, wishing to volunteer at an upcoming event, or have any other questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (902)863-2358. I look forward to chatting and seeing you at one of our upcoming events.
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