Acting Together to Care for

Victims of Sexual Violence in

Lunenburg and Queens County 

Dianne Crowell & Stacey Godsoe

October 3, 2013
Executive Summary

Acting Together To Initiate a Comprehensive and Collaborative Service for Victims of Sexual Assault in Lunenburg and Queens County

Sexual violence transcends civility and law in all societies worldwide. It is not discriminatory of socio-economic status, education level, race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ableness. Whether our understanding of this issue is from personal experience, those of family or friends, or reports in the news, its insidious nature affects us all.  

Given the limited time frame of the project and complexity of the subject this report is a brief overview of incidents of sexual violence and services offered in Lunenburg and Queens counties, attempts to date to improve services and hopefully a clearer vision for a more collaborative model of sexual assault services. The need for improved services has been well documented in an application for a South Shore Sexual Assault Response Team to the provincial government in 2009 by several local organizations and individuals, including Second Story Women’s Centre. Unfortunately, this request while detailed and well researched was not funded. Since this time collaborative relationships among service providers and a great deal of ground work has been established through the Be the Peace Initiative of Second Story Women’s Centre, a federally funded three year project building partnerships for a coordinated community response to violence against women and girls.

From quantitative research and qualitative interviews with multiple stakeholders, including service providers and survivors, the overwhelming message that improved, local and collaborative services are needed now has been made clear. Major gaps in current service delivery and inappropriate and sometimes damaging approaches to care exist.  It is essential that the choice for a medical exam and the technology and training for collection of forensic evidence be made available; however equally important is the consideration of the victim’s choice in appropriate care and whether this would include the option of pressing charges. Our present approach does not offer this option because there is no capacity to appropriately store collected evidence unless police are involved. This reality highly impacts the victim’s decision-making when faced with whether to seek help after a violent assault or keep this incident private. The long-term effects of not garnering support during this pivotal time of trauma can be life-long and costly.  

This project’s intense timeframe of eight weeks also did not allow for as much consideration of need or recommendations for some of our more marginalized communities. It is important in moving forward with any model of sexual assault service delivery that appropriate consideration is given to differences and vulnerabilities within specific groups including, culture, gender, age, and sexuality. It is worth noting that it is of particular importance to reach out to people who live with disabilities and become aware of our internalized ableism when developing models of appropriate care for victims of sexualized violence. People living with disabilities are over-represented in incidents of sexual violence, special consideration of their needs is essential.  

The most vulnerable population currently under-served by existing sexual assault services is young women and children. Although the scope of this project does not address education and prevention in terms of changing societal norms around consent, bullying, and healthy relationships, it is widely accepted that these issues need immediate and distinct attention. It is clear that more regional youth-serving organizations and agencies are needed as well as appropriately trained professionals in schools and other contact points for youth.  The linkages to alcohol and other addictive substances and sexual violence - both as a byproduct of coping with trauma associated with these incidents as well as a contributor to increased risk for sexual violence - needs to be more fully understood by health professionals and underscored in any change to appropriate service delivery. Early intervention by professionals and trusted adults in order to mitigate the long-term effects of trauma from sexualized violence is essential. Decisive action is needed in order to ensure meaningful change in levels of reporting among youth and reduced incidents of sexual violence within this demographic overall.

The model we choose to recommend fits well into a rurally based service and allows all partners and supportive agencies to work within their own organizations to developing their own protocol.  Once individual protocols are established and approved by all relevant partners, an overall protocol can be jointly created to ensure improved working relationships and most importantly clear and supportive services.

Throughout our research the voices of those who have survived sexual violence were the guiding force in our work and led any recommendations for improved services. Bravery comes in all forms, but none so acutely witnessed as those who shared their experiences and continue their journey of healing.  

1. Introduction

 "Acting Together to Respond to Sexual Violence on the South Shore" is a project of Second Story Women’s Centre to create a better model of collaborative service delivery for survivors of sexual violence specific to the needs of Lunenburg and Queens counties. The project team has met with relevant partners, agencies and individuals in this region to gather information and make recommendations.

There is a recognized need for a more consistent, collaborative and sustainable model for the delivery of sexual assault services in both Lunenburg and Queens counties. Historically, the pathway for survivors has been patchwork, a different approach depending on entry points, nature of violence, and individuals on duty.

"After being interrogated by police in a small windowless office while being watched and taped without consent... Police officer said 'That wasn't so bad was it?'" - Survivor

Although the majority working in this field do as much as they can with available training and resources, it is not enough to significantly reduce barriers to reporting, meet best practice recommendations for appropriate care or reduce overall rates of sexual violence. Communities working in isolation and agencies operating within departmental silos have contributed to the need for a collaborative, community-based response. Specific challenges exist for rural communities including, under-funded and under-served core services and support agencies, lack of anonymity, geographical isolation, lack of public transportation, trust issues, turf disputes within related agencies and services, and cultural blind spots around consent/non-consent.

There has been a concerted effort over the years by local organizations and service providers to fill these gaps with little funding and no structural framework. Those who are most affected, first responders, therapeutic and support workers and survivors, have made it very clear that what is needed now is a coordinated, collaborative, multidisciplinary and survivor-centred model of care.

This report profiles current data and available services for sexual violence and identifies gaps in service. Recommendations grew from a combined scan of available statistical data and literature for Lunenburg and Queens counties as well as interviews with those most directly affected by this issue; front line service providers and survivors.

Regional data is difficult to come by because of a need for more consistent methods of data collection and preservation, as well as complex barriers to reporting including fear, shame, and distrust in agency protocol and outcomes. Therefore county numbers are based largely on national and provincial data applied to county specific demographics to make regional projections. In the absence of local stats, the researchers carried out qualitative research by conducting phone and face-to-face interviews with a broad range of key informants, including those who have experienced sexual violence. Once all available information was gathered (in the allotted time frame), researchers compiled data and created recommendations.

2. Defining Sexual Violence

Sexual Assault - Forced sexual activity, an attempt at forced sexual activity, or unwanted sexual touching, grabbing, kissing, fondling, (from, Criminal Victimization in Canada, 2009, Statistics Canada, General Social Survey).

Sexual Violence - Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person's sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work (World Health Organization., World report on violence and health, Geneva, 2002).

 SANE - Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

 SART - Sexual Assault Response Team

 3. Profile of Sexual Violence in Lunenburg and Queens Counties

Sexual violence is among the most pervasive and least reported of violent crimes. In Nova Scotia, 8% of women aged 15 and over have experienced physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner in the past five years (2004 General Social Survey). While there were 52 reported incidents of sexual assault in Lunenburg and Queens counties combined in 2011 (NS Community Counts Survey), as many as 88% of incidents go unreported (2009 General Social Survey), indicating closer to 333 incidents of sexual assault annually in these two counties.        

 According to information gathered from local agencies and survivors there are many reasons reporting is at such a low. Barriers to accessing support include, shame, fear of pressing charges, low rate of convictions, lack of anonymity, and for many, myths related to consensual versus non-consensual sex. A model of care that considers these blind spots in service delivery is essential. If those who have experienced sexual violence had the means to understand what has happened to them, a safe place to go to be cared for, clear choices for the path forward medically, legally and emotionally, under-reporting would be significantly alleviated and incidents of sexual violence could decline overall. 

Sexual Assault in NS - Police Reported Sexual Assaults

Sexual violence has the lowest reporting rate compared to other violent crimes. Nova Scotia reports among the highest in the country for rates of sexual assault.

Reported sexual assaults in Canada, for those 15 years of age and older, made up8% of all reported criminal incidents in that year.[1]

The rate of sexual assault in Nova Scotia during the year 2011, was 9 per 10, 000 population [2]

It is estimated that 88% of sexual assault cases in Canada were not reported to police[3]

While Nova Scotia did not have the highest rate of police reported sexual assaults in 2007 at 82 per 100, 000 population, it was significantly higher than the national rate of 73 per 100, 000[4]

in 2007 sexual assaults made up 7.7% of all police reported violent offences in Nova Scotia, making it the most underreported of all violent crimes[5]

The total of police-reported incidents of sexual assault in Nova Scotia in 2011 was 708 (98% of these were Level 1), 21,821 in total in Canada [6]

82% of victims in 2011 for police-reported sexual assaults, were female[7]

Children accounted for 105 police-reported incidents of cases of sexual violence in NS in 2011[8]

Most victims of sexual assault are young. 44% aged 15-24, 24% aged 25-34, 19% aged 35-44[9]

In more than half (54%) accused was between 18-34 [10]

86% of victims indicated they lived in urban over rural areas [11]

more than half (56%) of victims reported they has engaged in 30 or more evening activities per month [12]

In the majority of cases of sexual assault, the perpetrator was known to the victim. 65% of reported cases to Halifax Regional Police in 2007 were an acquaintance, friend, significant other or family member. [13]

 

Sexual Assault and the Criminal Justice System

Nova Scotia has the lowest rate of charges laid for sexual assaults in all of Canada. On average, charges, convictions and prison sentences have fallen significantly in the last decade.

 

In 2007 only 30% of reported sexual assaults in Nova Scotia had charges laid, the lowest in all provinces and territories, with the national average at 42%. In 1993 this was at 56%.[14]

Importantly, charges for other reported violent crimes maintained a stable proportion at an average of 43%) [15]

Of those charges laid in HRM, in 2007, only 22% resulted in a conviction (- same source as above)

The acquittal rate for sexual assault is significantly higher than acquittal rates for other violent offences. In 2006-2007 acquittal rate for sexual assaults in NS was 13% and 6% for other violent offences (- same source)

Prison sentences for convicted sexual offenders have decreased from 60% - 36% between 1995-2004 in NS. [16]

Given the above rates of reporting, charges laid, convictions and incarceration in Nova Scotia, the probability of a perpetrator being held criminally responsible can be calculated at 1.01%.

Sexual Violence in Lunenburg County

Local data and research on sexual violence rates is limited so in many cases the numbers reflect a comparison of provincial statistics with local demographics. 

The lack of reporting for sexual violence in this region has led to an under-serviced region. The rationale for resourcing additional services and up to date training is led by these low numbers which do not reflect the actuality of sexual assault in this region.

  There were 33 reported incidents of sexual assault in Lunenburg County in 2011, (or a rate of 9 per 10,000 population) [17]

  Given that 88% of sexual assault cases in Canada do not get reported (2009 General Social Survey), projections would show that there are closer to 275 incidents per year in Lunenburg County

Another way of looking at reported cases in Lunenburg County ...

  According to the 2004 General Social Survey, 8% of Nova Scotian women aged 15 and over had experienced physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner in the past five years. It can be estimated, therefore by 2011 NS Community Census counts, that 1700 women in Lunenburg County were victims of intimate partner assault over a five year period, or 340 annually

  If 88% of cases go unreported (2009 GSS), then this number is actually closer to 2,833 in Lunenburg County annually, and roughly 1643 of these incidents would be youth under the age of 18[18]

Between 2008-2013 RCMP Lunenburg Detachment received 211 calls for services related to a variety of sexual crimes allegations (66 charged, 29 sentenced, 12 pending, 2 dismissed/ acquitted)

According to the Chief Crown Attorney’s Office for the Western Region, NS, there were 16 cases of sexual assault in Bridgewater and area, in front of the courts in 2012 and 13 as of September, 2013

  Harbour House - from Katherine McCarron, ED Harbour House, 2013

From September 2012 - September 2013, Residents and Out-reach Clients

Sexual Abuse - 1 (1.14%)

Partner abuse - physical 21 (23.86%)

Partner abuse - psychological 33 (37.5%)

 

Sexual Violence in Queens County

Local data and research on sexual violence rates is limited so in many cases the numbers reflect a comparison of provincial statistics with local demographics. 

The rate per population of reported sexual violence in Queens County is roughly double that of Lunenburg County.

  There were 19 reported incidents of sexual assault in Queens County in 2011, or a rate of 17 per 10,000 population[19] (roughly double that of Lunenburg County)

  Since 88% of all incidents of sexual assault are not reported[20], this number is closer to 158 total incidents in Queens County annually

Another way of looking at reported cases in Queens County ...

 The 2004 General Social Survey shows that 8% of NS women had experienced physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner over a five year period. Therefore based on current demographics in Queen's County, 393 women 15 years of age and older have reported incidents of sexual assault over a 5 year period, or 79 annually[21]

Factoring in that 88% of sexual assaults are not reported (2009 GSS), projections indicate that there are actually 658 incidents in Queens County per year, 382 of these being youth under the age of 18[22]

According to the Queens County Detachment of the RCMP, during the period of April 1, 2012-April 1, 2013, there were 9 reported sexual assault cases, all involving children, 4 of which were historical, 2 which resulted in charges (Cpr Whalen, August, 2013)

According to the Chief Crown Attorney’s Office for the Western Region, NS, there were 8 cases of sexual assault in Liverpool and area, in front of the courts in 2012 and none as of September, 2013 (Trina Robinson, Assistant to the Chief Crown, Western Region, August, 26, 2013)           

Sexual Violence and Diverse Populations in NS - First Nations and Acadians

Many populations in Lunenburg and Queens County are overrepresented among survivors of sexual violence and underserved by available resources. Aboriginal women in Nova Scotia are very vulnerable to all types of violence, including sexual assault. Although an acknowledged population susceptible to vulnerabilities for sexual violence due to language and cultural isolation, information on how this issue affects the Acadian population in Nova Scotia in particular is scarce.

    Higher among Aboriginal population, 319 vs 101 people per 1000 pop[23]

75% of victims of Aboriginal sex offenders were Aboriginal females under the age of 18. [24]

A prevalence rate of 25-50% child sexual abuse in Aboriginal adults surveyed across Canada in last 20 years (both from “Sexual Abuse in Canadian Aboriginal Communities: A Broad Review of Conflicting Evidence”)[25]

Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die by violence than any other group of women in Canada [26]

According to Status of Women Canada, Summary of Policy Forum on Aboriginal Women and Violence (2006), Aboriginal women are considered the most vulnerable and marginalized women within Canadian society, particularly with respect to violence. [27]

 

 

Sexual Violence and Girls

 

Age and gender combine to be one of the major risk factors in experiencing sexualized violence. Children generally and young women between the age of 15 and 18 remain the most vulnerable demographics for sexualized violence in Nova Scotia.

Sexual crimes were the most common offense against girls in 2011, 47% of all violent crimes against girls under 12 reported to police were sexual in nature, much higher than the corresponding share of violent crimes against women (7%)  [28]

Police-reported sexual offenses were the most common against girls under 12 years of age. [29]

In 2007 the sexual assault rate for children and youth was over five times higher than it was for adults [30]

11% of young women in Nova Scotia had experienced sexual abuse and that 19% of those who had had sex with a male has been forced by their boyfriends[31]

58% of victims of all sexual assaults are youth under the age of 18[32]

 

Sexual Violence and Alcohol

The linkages between alcohol and violence, and in particular sexual violence, are significant. Both in the form of substance abuse as a result of trauma associated with sexual assault and as a contributing risk factor in vulnerability to sexual violence substance abuse, and in particular alcohol, this relationship needs further examination.

90% of participants in a Canadian study of women who abused alcohol reported having experienced trauma in some form

The majority of respondents reported that alcohol use was the outcome of efforts to self medicate to deal with emotional pain associated with trauma[33]

Women affected by violence are 15 times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol dependency[34]

Women are more likely than men to drink alcohol in response to negative and stressful situations[35]

Half of Canadian women have experienced domestic violence[36] and those who have experienced partner violence are six times more likely to be depressed and four times more likely to use psychoactive drugs than those who have not be victims of domestic violence[37]

Young women are drinking more than ever before, between 2003-2008 the degree that monthly risky drinking increased in Canadian women aged 20-34 was 20%[38]

This trend in increased binge drinking has been shown to increase the risk to vulnerability to unwanted sexual activity[39] as well as exposure to violence in general[40]

According to The 2004 Canadian Campus Survey 12.8% of women attending college and universities had unplanned sexual activity as a result of alcohol[41]

Alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in Nova Scotia and according to the 2005 Nova Scotia Alcohol Indicators Report, an estimated 237,270 Nova Scotians 18 years and older have been harmed by another person’s use of alcohol[42]

Alcohol is involved in the majority of sexual assaults by the victim and/or perpetrator and in all cases involving young girls between 12-15 years in Nova Scotia[43]

The Chief of Police in Bridgewater, Lunenburg County, suggests that alcohol is frequently involved in distress calls, and that in an audit of domestic violence cases in the region between January 2012 to November 2012, responding officers found that liquor was a contributing factor in 55% of cases (Bridgewater Police Chief, John Collyer, personal communication, 2012)

 

Sexual Violence and Seniors

As 1000 people turn 65 in Nova Scotia each month and seniors are our fastest growing demographic. Although they are not generally considered to be a vulnerable population for violent crime statistically in Canada compared to other demographics, it is not known if this is a true reflection of sexual violence among seniors or if is simply due to a lack of reporting. Due to time constraints on this project and the scarcity of data for sexual assault and seniors in Nova Scotia, there is limited information in this report although it is recognized as a critical element for consideration in the development of an appropriate response to sexual violence in this region.

4-8% of older adults in Canada experience some form of abuse, 25% of abusers are family members, usually a spouse or adult child[44]

Violent victimization, including sexual assault, for seniors (64 years +) is four times lower than 55-64 year olds, and 20 times lower than for 15-24 year olds[45]

 

Sexual Violence and LGBTI Communities

Local statistics on sexual violence in the LGBTI population in Nova Scotia are scarce however, it is widely recognized that more services are needed to better serve this population in Nova Scotia, including appropriate training and eradication of assumptions and homophobia among service providers.

There are widely held myths about same sex abuse by service providers including that it must be mutual; the same is not generally assumed within heterosexual dynamics[46]  

Between 5-10% of sexual assault against gay men were committed by heterosexual males as a form of “gay bashing”[47]

28% of gay men experience sexual assault by their partner[48]

 

 Sexual Violence and People with Disabilities

Victimization research shows persons with disabilities are highly over represented among survivors of sexual violence.

83% of females and 32% of males among developmentally disabled are victims of sexual assault[49] 

40% of women with physical disabilities reported being sexually assaulted[50]

Disabled girls are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted [51]

 

4. Current Service Delivery in Lunenburg and Queens

Resources and support for survivors of sexual violence in this region is inconsistent and varies depending on entry point and whether incidents were reported and charges were laid. Currently our response to incidents of sexual violence in this region is both patchwork and inconsistent. Like many other under-served areas the pathway to help is variant depending largely on entry point, agency protocol and available resources. Individuals who work in these services do the best that they can. There is however, a glaring need for a more consistent, sustainable and collaborative response tailored to the needs of these communities right now.

 

 

South Shore Health -

 

“Our current approach to sexual assaults is ad hoc at best” - SSRH Medical Director of Emergency Department, 2013

 

  South Shore Regional Hospital  

 

“This is something we don’t deal with much, approximately once a year, and therefore poses a challenge in meeting the needs of the patient in a timely manner.” – ED Staff, SSH

 

Although it would appear that there are few incidents of sexual violence according to reports from our local Emergency Departments, on further exploration this perceived trend is more likely due to a lack of consistent and victim-centred response offered in hospitals. Currently rape kits can be performed at the regional hospital if there is a physician available. There is only one physician on duty in the Emergency Department at a time and they therefore cannot dedicate the time required to complete the kit (often a couple of hours minimum) without interruption.  One of two local doctors who are trained to perform rape kit exams, Heather Robertson and Heather Johnson, are called in cases of sexual assaults. When no one is available, victims of sexual assault may be referred to either the QEII (arranged by the Department of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University) or the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax.  The difference being, while rape kits are provided at both locations, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are only staffed at Avalon. Therefore, victims who seek care at the South Shore Regional Hospital have to report the incident to Police while they do not at Avalon. Avalon has their own supply of non-Police provided kits on site as well as the capacity to store forensic evidence for up to six months while the victim decides whether they will pursue legal options.

 

Historically, doctors and nurses were trained to assist victims of sexual assault for the Bridgewater and Lunenburg emergency departments. The Department of Justice used to cover costs for training as well as pay per service for doctors and nurses performing rape kits but this practice did not last. MSI has reinstated payment for service for the time it takes to perform rape kits in recent years.

 

There are concerns about this practice from the perspective of staff for a number of reasons. It was thought that there were not enough cases to maintain skills and the time involved in the exams themselves as well as during court proceeding is another deterrent to attending physicians. The rape kits are considered outdated and much more invasive and “dehumanizing” than necessary for the collection of forensic evidence. One doctor reported that multiple pubic hairs needed to be pulled from the victim for DNA purposes.

 

“There is not much room for emotional support of the victim, the whole process is very robotic and mechanical. The medical treatment of the rape victim necessitated by the parameters of the rape kit can be likened to that of a cadaver” (Medical Director of the ED, 2013)

 

Exploration into training a number of nurses in the district to be Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners was abandoned due to concerns that there were not enough cases to warrant the costs for ongoing training requirements.  Within already established SAS models where SANEs are available (Avalon, Antigonish and Pictou), survivors are able to access a physical exam and medical support without pressure to report the incident legally. Storage of forensic evidence puts the decision of whether to proceed with legal charges in the hands of the victim. This gives greater assurance of care for victims of sexual violence because there is no pressure to make a life-altering decision in the midst of the trauma. SANEs also provide emotional support and referrals for further care.

 

Currently when the first point of entry for someone who has experienced a sexual assault is the Emergency Department it is triaged very high and if space allows victims are given a room. According to the Medical Director of the ED there is rarely a room available and certainly no designated room for sexual assault victims to wait or be examined within the hospital. While use of the ED has increased annually by 2-3%, funding for building infrastructure has not changed.

 

Staffhave access to a toll free number referred to as a “SANE Hotline” (a call centre in Halifax, possibly Avalon Sexual Assault Centre). During the work week there is staff from Mental Health available for referrals from the Emergency Department, after hours this is not the case. If victims are under 16, Child and Family Services is contacted. Victims under 16 are always sent to the IWK. As long as a patient is not under 16 there is no duty for staff to report to authorities.

 

When time allows procedure dictates that the physician on duty discusses options with the patient and if the patient agrees to an examination the police must be called because there is no capacity for storage of forensic evidence. There is always a certain degree of care available to patients whether they decide to file a police report or not, including STI and pregnancy tests and referrals to mental health. Adult women have the option to go to Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax for a rape kit, for follow up and for support. Transportation is arranged from the hospital but only to Halifax. Ongoing counselling and support services are arranged at SSRH through Mental Health.

 

Staff familiarity with sexual assault protocol is reported to be low. This may be due to a high degree of turnover as well as a perceived lack of “need”. SSRH staffhave broad crisis intervention training but nothing specifically related to sexual violence. Their practice is informed by general principles of confidentiality, sensitivity and accurate management of patient information but specialty training in sexual assault management is not a priority.

 

(from Doctor Heather Robertson, one of two rape kit- trained physicians at SSRH, Doctor Christian Pugh, Medical Director of the ED, SSRH & Michelle Tipert, Health Services Manager for the ED, ICU and Respiratory, SSRH, 2013)

 

 

Queens General Hospital

 

“The local docs here are all able to do rape kits. We keep them in the ER at the QGH and that is where the examination would be performed (nursing assistance needed, support there, etc).” Norah Mogan, ER Doc, QGH, also runs Sexual Health Clinics

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s Services Coordinator, Addiction Services and Mental Health

 

“Safety is not just a physical place to be. We need to have a trauma informed approach and offer safe, supportive and non invasive way to assist victims.” (Nancy Ross, Past Women’s Services Coordinator, 2013)

 

Childhood sexual abuse has been recognized as a significant contributor to later use of Addictions and Mental Health Services in this region, particularly among women. A past Women’s Services Coordinator in Addictions and Mental Health identified that problems with substance abuse, particularly alcohol, and mental health issues were almost always precipitated by sexual trauma in childhood in her clients over a ten year period. She received referrals from a variety of entry points including,  Harbour House, Family Resource Centre, Nova Scotia Community College and Family and Children Services among others. At a provincial gathering of addictions counsellors all of the participants except one reported that every one of their clients had experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. Substance abuse is a common result of efforts to cope with the trauma associated with sexual violence but it also plays a significant role in increasing risk for incidents of sexual violence, particularly among young people. It is difficult to gain a clear understanding of the actual numbers of these incidents in this region and it is essential that we find a better way to collect and share confidential but accurate statistics to improve services. Service providers who approach their clients from a“trauma informed” practice have better results and avoid much of the secondary wounding that can unintentionally take place for victims of sexual violence.

 

(from Nancy Ross, past Women’s Services Coordinator, Addiction Services and Mental Health, SSH, 2013)

 

 

Midwifery

 

One of our regional midwives has had clients in or coming from violent, sometimes sexually violent, relationships. The midwives are able to provide emotional support, information and referrals but are not specifically trained to manage cases independently. Within their holistic approach to care, they do have the unique opportunity to see survivors in another context where sexual assault is not the presenting issue but after trust has been established and clients are assured a safe context for sharing, situations of sexual violence are often revealed. This particular midwife has noticed a distinct lack of supportive services in this region, and particularly in Queens County. Often mothers who have experienced sexual violence are hesitant to seek support from social services there because they feel agencies are so closely linked that any concern would be reported to Child Protection without their consent. There is no local transition house for adults or children, the closest being in Bridgewater. Appropriate counseling services are also difficult to access because there is no regional service tailored to the mental health needs of new mothers. Victims of sexualized violence who are pregnant or new mothers are at great risk for long-term emotional effects including Post Partum Depression. The only specialized Reproductive Mental Health Services are offered out of the IWK in Halifax. It is felt by many of these mothers that not only is there stigma associated with accessing Mental Health services here but a real danger for their children to be taken away. For those who have reported, or been forced to report, court proceedings are often in Halifax or Dartmouth and transportation and child care are not covered or offered. If a woman does not appear, she could be arrested. There is no opportunity for victims of sexual assault to seek legal representation. In cases where mothers have asked for legal aid, they have been told that because the potential for conviction of the perpetrator is high, they are not eligible for representation. There is a high degree of stress associated with appearing in court alongside their abusers for women in pregnancy or post-natally.

 

(Maren Dietze, Midwife, SSH, 2013)

 

 

Justice

 

 

  RCMP, Lunenburg Detachment  

 

Current protocol begins with obtaining a statement from the victim and any witnesses. If penetration and/or ejaculation are involved the victim is asked to be examined by a physician at SSRH trained in the use of the "RCMP Sexual Assault Kit". The evidence gathered is turned over to a police officer and sent to the forensic lab for analysis. RCMP Victim Services Volunteers may be contacted to stay with the victim while they wait to see a doctor and may be asked to follow up should the victim require any referrals. An investigation and possible arrest are made if warranted and a statement is taken from offender. The offender may be released on a recognizance to have no further contact with the victim. The offender is photographed and fingerprinted. They are then released on a “promise to appear” in court. Officers continue to gather evidence, prepare a court brief, subpoena the victim, witnesses, medical staff... in case of trial. If children are at risk, Family and Children's Services are contacted. The RCMP lead investigator prepares an extensive VICLAS report (Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System) which is sent to VICLAS Coordinator for "H" division in the province. RCMP monitors CSO checks on the offender to ensure he/she is not in violation of conditions regarding the undertaking. If the offender is found guilty of charges, he/she is required to submit samples of blood to a trained police officer. Samples are sent to the DNA registry in Ottawa and kept on the offender's permanent record. If a person reports a sexual assault that does not involve penetration or bodily fluids, or is historical, it is dealt with using same protocol with the exception of undergoing a doctor's examination.

 

(from Cst Susan Foote, Lunenburg Detachment, RCMP, 2009)

 

 

  RCMP, Queens Detachment

 

Protocol for cases of sexual assault for RCMP in Queens fall under the same guidelines as that of the Lunenburg Detachment.  If someone reports being sexually assaulted, a file is immediately opened and an investigator assigned.  If the victim is a child, Child and Family Services are notified and a joint interview is conducted by both agencies with the child.  The process is dependent on whether the assault is recent or historical.  The victim is interviewed and it is determined if there is a crime scene needing protection as well whether the victim needs to go to hospital for an examination and further care.  If a medical exam is required the victim is given the choice of being examined by a SANE in Halifax or proceeding at the local hospital.  The victim is referred to Victim Services and other sexual assault services for support.  The case is followed with interviews with any witnesses and processing any exhibits.  If a suspect is identified, the suspect is interviewed and, if there is enough evidence to lay a charge, an appropriate charge is laid.  The victim is kept up to date on the progress of the file. 

 

In historical cases of sexual assault, there is not likely to be evidence at a scene and nor the need to attend the hospital for an exam but that would be determined during the interview.  The process would otherwise be the same as in an acute case.  

 

(from Cpl. Sandi Merrell, Queens Detachment, RCMP, 2013) 

 

 

 

 

 

  Bridgewater Police Service

 

Sexual assault cases are handled by the Department's General Investigative Section. If the victim is under 16 they are taken by family or by an officer to the IWK in Halifax to proceed with a rape kit. They are always accompanied by an officer who delivers the completed kit to the Bridgewater Police Department. If the victim is an adult, they are taken to SSRH for a rape kit. The tendency is that most victims do proceed with an exam but for some it is too late to be useful as they have washed away the evidence. There are private waiting areas at both hospitals when available. The Police Department will try to provide a female officer whenever possible. The Police have some internal supports available including two trained Volunteer Victim Assistants who were originally included to support Domestic Violence cases but their scope was expanded to cover those of a sexually violent nature as well. The Department is also in the process of obtaining a Chaplain for additional emotional support where appropriate.

 

(from Chief John Collyer, BPS, 2013)

 

 

  Victim Services 

 

"Sometimes not pressing charges is about a conscious decision to move past the violence"- Survivor

 

The Provincial Victim Services Program provides victims of crime with information, support and assistance as their case moves through the criminal justice system. There are four regional offices including one run jointly out of Kentville and Bridgewater covering Annapolis, Kings, Hants, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Lunenburg and Queens counties. Clients generally come as referrals from the Police/RCMP and sometimes the Crown Attorney, less often they are self-referred and very rarely from the Volunteer Victim Services through the Police. In addition there is one high risk victim services coordinator who serves the entire Western Region of the province.

The regional staff person for Lunenburg and Queens counties (among other counties) provides information, preparation and support for court process and referrals to counseling services. Victims are asked if they want a referral to Victim Services by Police, who are also supposed to give victims their card and contact information, however this seems to not be commonly the practice. The regional staff person checks all files regardless and follows up with victims to see if they need her services. Cases involving children are referred directly to Victim Services by the Crown.

Even in cases where no charges are laid, a victim may still be eligible for services. It is important to note that it is not necessarily always a lack of evidence resulting in charges not being laid, as this may be as a result of a victim’s denial that the assault did happen. Often in high risk cases victims will not pursue charges if child protection is involved for fear of losing children.

Victims are provided with a list of private counselors for long-term, ongoing therapy which can begin immediately. Counseling for crisis intervention on the other hand, has to go through regional Mental Health Services and can take up to 4-6 weeks for an appointment. The Victim Services staff person will often make efforts to fast-track by alerting Police, who will prioritize processing these reports for particular cases. In sexual assault cases referrals can be made to Avalon, however again this can take six to eight weeks and transportation can be an issue.

Long-term counseling is covered up to $2000 (20-25 sessions) through Victim Services but this often runs out before the court process is finished or sometimes, has even started.

In this region there are roughly 180 cases total, 150 of these in the Bridgewater area. Approximately 15% of these would be victims of sexual violence (inferring 23 cases of sexual assault presently in this area). Most cases of sexual assault are children. More often parent is not the perpetrator so can work with the child to provide additional support.

In cases of children testifying in court there is a very new practice in place - in this last year - of using closed circuit testimonies, even though this protocol has been in criminal code since 1992. This is considered by staff to be a vast improvement in services.

Sexual assaults within a spousal or intimate relationship are considered domestic violence. In these cases the approach by the legal and justice systems is pro-arrest and pro-charge but this is not necessarily so with other sexually violent crimes.

(from Nancy Archibald, VS case worker, Kentville/Bridgewater Office serving Lunenburg and Queen’s & Bonnie Cookson, High-Risk VS Coordinator for entire Western Region, 2013)

 

 

Community Support Services –

 

  Harbour House

 

This 15 bed Bridgewater based transition house provides support, counselling, referrals and child care to women in violent situations. In addition to their shelter and care services to residents of the transition house, they provide outreach to nine different locations in Lunenburg and Queens counties. They have a team of two who facilitate programming in schools on healthy relationships from grades Primary to 12, support groups for residents, ex-residents and non-residents as well as facilitated off-site support groups at the Family Support Centre in Bridgewater. For clients who come in the door having experienced sexual or physical violence, they also provide accompaniment to hospital and through legal channels if that is the chosen route.

 

(Katherine McCarron, Executive Director, Harbour House, 2013)

 

 

  Second Story Women’s Centre

 

The Centre provides support and education in a women's centred environment. For women who are or have experienced sexual violence whether acute or historic the overriding service offered at SSWC is support and active listening. The Support Coordinator is the main point of contact and would ensure confidentiality, provide counseling and ongoing support as well as relay medical, legal and additional support service options to the individual. Medical intervention is encouraged in cases of acute sexual assault and medical and legal accompaniment are offered in any case of sexual violence. More often survivors of acute sexual violence seek medical support at Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax whether it is for reasons associated with uncertainty for reporting or for concerns around lack of anonymity with local service providers. In one case the individual reported to SSWC that they were denied a medical exam at the Regional Hospital because they were not believed. Most clients of SSWC's counseling and referral services are survivors of historic sexual violence where it is not the presenting issue but is uncovered over a long period of time and multiple counselling sessions after trust and safety are ensured.

 

(Sally Hutchinson, Support Coordinator, SSWC, 2013)

 

Sexual Health Centre for Lunenburg County

 

The Sexual Health Centre in Lunenburg County, located in Bridgewater, provides information on sexual health, one-on-one counseling, referrals, and informal support. Although acute cases of sexual assault are not normally the presenting issue for clients of the centre, this often comes up through discussion of other issues related to sexuality and health. In these cases, staff usually refer clients to Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax and rarely to professional counselors. Historically they have found their clients have been further traumatized as a result of inappropriate care by therapists not specifically trained in sexual violence management. The Sexual Health Centre’s capacity is limited. Their counselors are not professionally trained but do offer appropriate support while clients wait for referrals to specialists, sometimes for weeks.

 

(from Jean Ketterling, ED, Sexual Health Centre for Lunenburg County, 2013)

 

 

   Family Support Centre

 

"It is shockingly common that non consensual sex occurs among teenagers, especially group sex" - Tami Cushing, Family Support Centre

 

The Bridgewater Family Support Centre provides support, programming and child care to families and parents in Lunenburg County. Although never the presenting issue, clients to the Centre often reveal having experienced sexual violence over time once trust has been established. According to the Executive Director of the Centre, approximately 70% of women who come to access services or programming eventually have experienced an incident of sexual violence. Staff at the Family Support Centre offer support to survivors by way of referrals, information and education. Misinformation about what is consent is common among women who do eventually reveal histories of sexual abuse. Young women in particular seem to be susceptible to non-consensual sex leading to ongoing trauma and sometimes self-abuse.

 

(Tami Cushing, Executive Director, Bridgewater Family Support Centre, 2013)

 

 

 

 

YMCA Youth Centre

 

The YMCA Youth Centre offers a safe, non-judgmental place to gather, speak freely and engage with peers and staff. Their services include referrals to other agencies where appropriate. Staff are legally required to report any case of sexual or violent abuse, assault or criminal activity. There is programming available for youth on coping mechanisms, healthy relationships, empowerment and resiliency.

There have been many cases where young people have come to staff who do not recognize that they have suffered sexual violence. A crucial service the Youth Centre offers is provision of information to survivors to help them identify that they were the victim of non-consensual sex and what their options are.  Staff have identified social media as a very volatile medium for understanding sexuality and relationships as well as a common venue for bullying and inappropriate sharing of information. Many of their clients do not understand the danger or permanency of this medium and need more education on this topic. Isolated and rural youth are particularly vulnerable as they have a tendency to turn to social media as a false community and put themselves in very vulnerable positions.

 

(from YMCA Youth Centre Coordinator, Kim Whitman-Mansfield, 2013)

 

 

Service Providers for Seniors

 

“I have a 94 year old client who would like to return to her home, but the man who raped her 20 years ago is about to get out of prison and he lives two houses away. His family continues to threaten her”. - Seniors Safety Coordinator, Liverpool

 

Rurally based seniors are increasingly more vulnerable to home invasions and the continued fear of the threat of another assault. There is growing concern in the area of dementia where body memory can recreate an abusive experience that has never been disclosed. 

 

“Other than I am sure that some of the struggles around bathing and personal care can at times be partially related to suffering previous abuse and even if in the dementia some of the actual memory is gone - not the felt experience. But this is part of the history that is seldom disclosed.” Paul Fielding Challenging Behaviour Resource Consultant

 

Nursing home environments are risk averse and so displays of intimacy even if beneficial are often quickly interrupted so there is little opportunity for forms of abuse among residents. However, in partner related experiences the issue of consent is questionable.

 

(from Liverpool Senior Safety Coordinator & Paul Fielding, Challenging Behaviour Resource Consultant, SSH)

 

 

SchoolsPlus, South Shore Regional School Board

 

"We know what's needed and it isn't about glory and honour, we are not stupid people and not ill-willed so let's get the job done" - Shirley Burris, SchoolsPlus

 

Schools Plus is an official partner of the South Shore initiative to create improved services for victims of sexual assault. Schools Plus is a collaborative agency that works in over a 100 schools through outreach programs and prevention workshops. Their main focus is to assist youth and their families to access services. They are problem solving, solutions based and on-site counseling and offer their workshops to the community at large.

 

There is a high level of awareness within Schools Plus of sexual violence. They promote issues within the schools to create awareness. Through student involvement they have created Name the Shame, a youth led prevention initiative. It was called this by the students themselves.

 

”I would rather go through it again than talk about it”. - student from Name the Shame

 

School Plus is currently developing a workshop about the porn industry and how these images have influenced youth and changed perceptions of healthy sex.

 

"Because of the porn industry, we don't have to groom them anymore" - sexual assault offender

 

(Shirley Burris, SchoolsPlus, SSRSB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nova Scotia Community College

 

The college has staff on hand who provide counseling services, crisis support, referrals and transition to other community services. They do not offer long-term support but current staff have had success building trust in a short period of time and opening up lines of communication about historic sexual violence. Usually these students have other ongoing issues related to mental health and often addictions. The student population at the college is very diverse and therefore display a range of understanding of how they would define consent. The student services counselor has often referred students to Second Story Women’s Centre’s outreach support provided locally at the Bridgewater Regional Library. This service offers a very non-threatening dynamic and venue for students who feel vulnerable accessing more traditional, hospital based support. Having services available in Bridgewater is essential to appropriate support for the College student population who are largely without transportation.

 

(from Student Services Staff Counselor, Kathleen Naylor, 2013)

 

 

   Immigration Settlement and Integration Services (ISIS)

 

This agency provides information, workshops and referrals to new Canadians. A new office location in Bridgewater, covering Lunenburg and Queen's counties, has reported clients in vulnerable positions, particularly rural immigrant women, who have or are experiencing sexual violence. Often times these women are misinformed by their spouses, often their abusers, regarding their legal rights. Additional factors often contributing to their isolation are lack of transportation, language barriers and spousal control of their finances and travel documentation.

Many women have additional concerns, sometimes unfounded, about their children being removed or of being deported. ISIS provides guidance and support to clients on their legal rights, translation services, referrals, information and support.

 

(Laura Atkinson, Bridgewater ISIS Office, 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Voice of Survivors

 

"Compassion can make a huge difference. We need to know we have value and we count." - Survivor

 

Victims of sexual assault, or survivors, have bravely shared their experiences. Whether they have endured years of incest, being forced into pornography, date or stranger rape, all survivors have relayed some consistent messages regarding their abuse and recovery. These common themes within vastly different experiences highlight the importance of confronting all aspects of sexual assault and not just the physical damages.

 

"Once you have experienced sexual violence it is difficult to be hopeful about anything." – Survivor

 

Most suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and felt this was only alleviated with continuous and timely counseling offered immediately after the violence occurred. Every survivor did reach out to someone (professional or otherwise) and for those who were only children when the violence occurred – usually repeatedly – there was one pivotal memory of someone who cared and reached out. This common but vital lifeline for survivors validated their experience and fortified their sense of self-worth.

 

All were warned by family, friends or professionals at one point or another, that telling was not the right thing to do and in fact would result in further punishment. And finally, all felt strongly that accessible and ongoing counseling by someone specifically trained in trauma and its effects was essential.   

 

"What I needed most was someone to help me get out of the situation and to name what was going on as abuse" - Survivor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Societal Costs and Effects of Sexual Violence

 

The long term effects of sexual violence can be devastating. Support services must be in place to assist the victim within an immediate time frame, otherwise Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can manifest in 48% of victims of sexual assault.[52] PTSD can result in symptoms affecting relationships, employability and general functionality. These symptoms are often triggered by body memory during routine health exams like Pap smears, physical exams, and dental procedures as well as therapeutic treatments such as massage. Smells, sounds and taste can also act as triggers. Women in treatment for substance abuse were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than men in the same circumstances. [53]

 

Depression is reported among 50% of victims of sexual violence[54], 33% reported thoughts of suicide and 13% actually attempted ending their lives. [55] Applying these statistical findings to Lunenburg and Queen's Counties results in a fairly grim picture; this would equate to roughly 217 cases of sexual violence where victims exhibited signs of depression, 143 with suicidal thoughts and 56 known suicides as a result of post-traumatic symptoms associated with an incident of sexual violence annually.

 

"Healing can take a long time and often people can continue to have the symptoms of denial until they go through recovery process” - Survivor

 

The human costs alone are reason enough for immediate expanded and improved sexual assault services but there are additional monetary loses associated with this social phenomenon on communities as a whole such as impacts to our already over-stretched health care system from short term and ongoing medical and mental health care, as well as lost productivity for all sectors. Two Canadian studies have estimated the costs associated with sexual violence to be $1.5 billion for annual costs with respect to health and well-being[56] and $4.2 billion for costs to social services, education, criminal justice, labour/ employment and medical/health care services.[57]

 

 

7. Recommendations for Demonstration Project of a Collaborative Model of Care for victims of Sexual Violence in Lunenburg and Queen’s Counties -

 

 

Collaboration and coordination among key service providers is paramount in providing a comprehensive response to sexual violence in this region. A new collaborative model must be developed with clearly laid out internal protocol for each participating agency as well as an overarching protocol for this system of partnerships. As a rural model, this approach will address issues of isolation, concerns of anonymity and an historic distrust of governmental agencies.  This model will be survivor-centred and every element of the service model will be designed to best meet their needs short and long term.

 

“There must be multi-sites throughout the province with established transportation, consistent service and accessible to everyone.” – Bonnie Cookson, High Risk Case Coordinator, Victim Services

 

Outcomes for the South Shore Sexual Assault Services Model will include:

 

1. Development of individual but complimentary protocol for each participating service organizations, as well as an inclusive protocol for the entire system of partnerships. Protocols will be shared and known between agencies for purposes of accountability and access.

 

 

2.  Improved sexual assault response policies and procedures within South Shore Health.

 

In consultation with the District Health Authority, South Shore Health, the researchers strongly recommend the eventual establishment of a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Program housed in the South Shore Regional Hospital. From information gathered during interviews with service providers, survivors and an examination of best practices elsewhere, it became obvious that this approach offers a victim-centred model which would address many of the current gaps in service delivery and alleviate barriers to reporting. One of the many advantages of this program is that SANE nurses can perform rape kits - which would be housed onsite along with the evidence collected, mitigating the need to request kits from local Police. Thus victims can delay decision making around pressing charges and formal reporting. Refrigerated forensic evidence can be kept for up to six months and still be used in a court of law. Victims are not discouraged from medical intervention by an immediate need to provide a statement and press charges post-trauma. This approach has shown to increase reporting. SANE nurses are also available for general support or information. Historically victims were examined by the physician on-call in an exam room alone and without verbal guidance of the exam itself or choices thereafter.  With a second SANE available, survivors have the immediate support and information needed to mitigate long-term affects and encourage follow-up treatment.

 

3. Second Story Women’s Centre and Harbour House, with available resources, will develop specific staff support to ensure referrals to appropriate community resources and ongoing support including a 24/7 crisis response (already in place at Harbour House) for immediate need as well as supports for further navigation of options related to medical, legal and therapeutic decision making.

 

4. Explore and collaborate with diverse partners to identify the needs, gaps and recommended protocol for under-served and vulnerable populations. Participate in the development of appropriate protocol with the Acadia First Nation community with guidance from Mi’kmaq women and community Elders. Work with the Acadian communities of Lunenburg and Queen’s Counties to engage appropriate cultural and language translation services in an effort to make services more accessible. Investigate interpretive services and accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. Examine appropriate training and response from service providers for survivors of sexual violence from the LGBTQI community.

 

5. Initiate a social media campaign to increase public awareness of local sexual violence services and support as well as build capacity for community-based responses to sexual violence. Increase profile of Second Story and Harbour House in remote communities. Launch an anonymous call-in event "I Count!" to self-identify as a survivor of sexual violence as a means to raise awareness around sexual violence andmost importantly to empower survivors.

 

6. Establish a network of trained, volunteers from remote communities to serve as rural representatives and be a primary entry point for survivors to access acute and ongoing care. Importantly, this group will adhere to established safety and confidentiality standards.

 

7. Initiate a Peer Counselor Training Program following Second Story Women’s Centre’s peer counseling course, “Someone to Talk To” which will assist victims with ongoing and long-term effects of the experience of sexual violence.

 

8. Develop and share a comprehensive list of diverse support groups to all partner agencies for referrals including but not limited to, survivor groups, peer counselors, professional therapeutic support, etc…

 

9. Define appropriate procedures per agency for collecting and categorizing data. Accessing information about the current status of sexual violence in this region is an identified gap in service delivery and accountability.

 

Recommendations for a collaborative and coordinated local response to address sexual violence

 

Second Story Women’s Centre/Acting Together proposes a modest and collaborative model of response that is achievable and importantly, community-based.  South Shore Health has agreed to partner on this project and is open to consultation in developing appropriate and coherent protocol for sexual assault services. South Shore Regional School Board and SchoolsPlus have agreed to serve as our Youth-Serving partner and could participate by bringing sexual assault services to schools and their communities as well as help to develop on-site protocols and referrals to external agencies.

 

Other key collaborators will be the region’s transition house, Harbour House, with 24-7 crisis support, counselling, referrals and accompaniment when appropriate. Bridgewater Police are fully engaged in any improvement to coordination among organizations and service providers.  Local connections have already been established through the Be the Peace Initiative (a project focusing on community responses to violence against women and girls) which will help to help build capacity, collaboration and awareness. Finally but most importantly there is ongoing collaboration with those most directly affected by improved services, survivors. The key components of this proposal have germinated largely from their identified needs and gaps, as well as their recommendations for an improved response to sexual violence in their communities.

 

The need for multiple and diverse entry points, particularly in the more remote areas of these counties highlighted the need for separate but complimentary protocol agreements among service providers and partners. All agencies and services have different responsibilities in responding to sexual assault, however each agency must have a working understanding of each other’s protocol. Second Story Women's Centre will facilitate the compilation of individual agencies’ protocols within a working agreement clearly defining partnership roles and responsibilities. A protocol agreement strategy will be established through the Sexual Assault Services Working Group.

 

Innovation and Improved Accessibility for Services

 

A rurally based model of care will empower victims/survivors by providing them with support, information, referrals to services and choice. A survivor-centred response ensures appropriate care but also alleviates long-term effects and trauma often associated with sexual violence.

 

Other rurally based models throughout Nova Scotia have demonstrated that having Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and Sexual Assault Response Teams are integral to core services for a sexual assault service model. These aspects of care will be explored thoroughly with relevant community partners.

 

Established referral services offered by Second Story Women’s Centre and Harbour House already exist. These would be expanded to address the geographical expanse and isolated nature of communities in this region.

 

Effort will be made to establish outreach through trained volunteer supports to make up a network of rural representatives for South Shore Sexual Assault Services. Peer Counselors would be trained and engaged to train others to address issues of “second wounding” sometimes associated with inappropriate interventions. Having consistent, accessible and trusted community-based support would address some of the challenges associated with rural service delivery by maximizing community assets already in place.

 

Recommendations from Informants

 

Victim Services -

Formal investigation into reasons for non-reporting here

Make sexual assault a priority within the law, fast track court cases to lessen long term effects

 

Addictions & Mental Health -

Better confidential data collection

Trauma-informed practice

More research and complimentary services needed for links to substance abuse and sexual violence

 

Midwifery -

Reproductive Mental Health services available to mothers in need of emotional support due to ongoing and acute trauma related to sexual violence

Availability of legal counsel/support, legal aid included, for accuser

Transition home for adults and children in Queens County

 

Bridgewater Family Support Centre -

   Increased education and awareness around what constitutes as consensual sex and healthy relationships

   Prioritizing sexual assault under the law

   Community-based services appropriate to rural needs

 

YMCA Youth Centre Coordinator -

More services for youth in particular in Lunenburg and Queens Counties and a clear network of these for youth-serving organizations, as well as interpretive literature accessible to youth which they will both identify and understand on their own, without the help of adult intervention (important for self-referrals and anonymity)

Much education needed on consent/non-consent, particularly for youth and dangers of social media as venue for over-sharing and cyber bullying

 

NSCC Student Services -

Evening hours for counseling services would suit student population (particularly college level) better

More info on Victim Services as well as High Risk Case services for College - many do not know they can contact VS in place of Police if there are sentiments of distrust

More outreach by Second Story Women’s Centre and Harbour House to the college - what are their services, education around non-resident outreach at Harbour House, for example

 

Disabled Network (from DAWN Canada website) -

Women’s services are often inaccessible to women with disabilities

Many docs have difficulty dealing with women who are both pregnant and disabled

inclusive social services for women with disabilities like transition houses

 

 

 

 

SchoolsPlus -

  Prevention and education - “rape myths”, misunderstanding of what is/not consent

  School Based Support - safety protocols in schools, teen health centres in schools

 

Survivors -

  Trained Peer Counselors

  More ongoing support services

  SANE Program with choice for victim reporting

  Revisions in the law to address the need for a more victim-centred approach

  Referral services to alternative health practices

  Shorter wait times for counseling services

 

Chief John Collyer, Bridgewater Police Service -

Memorandum of agreements between partner organizations - to reduce barriers between organizations and improve communication

Formalizing roles and responsibilities within sexual assault services

  A brochure for survivors and potential victims to navigate system/ process would be helpful.

  A SANE-trained nurse in the area to deal with incidences of sexual assault.

 

South Shore Health staff-

Very basic written protocol in hospital. Decision Tree for staff, contact numbers (SANE hotline, Avalon, on-call Mental Health), checklist for patient choice and referrals.

Rape Kit needs to be updated. Does not match actual needs of forensics lab and is therefore more invasive, longer, than necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Summary

 

This region needs seamless and integrated service delivery where support and resources are consistent despite multiple entry points. For this to work, we need to provide better collaboration between agencies and service providers where every door is the right door. With established protocol, response will be immediate and concurrent. All agencies and departments will know what to do to take better care of survivors of sexual violence.

 

The provision of equitable and safe settings for service delivery to all, while being sensitive to the issues related to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, citizenship, and/or physical and mental abilities of individuals, is essential in mitigating accessibility within local sexual assault services.

 

Survivors need choice and someone to articulate all available options. If a survivor does not want, or is not ready to lay charges they should still have a high quality of care available to them. Early intervention and ongoing support is essential in reducing long-term effects of trauma.

 

It is essential to have specially trained professionals who are aware of the multilayered needs of a survivor of sexual violence in order to avoid “second wounding” and to provide outreach as soon as possible. Trained Peer Counsellors and volunteer rural contacts are instrumental in reaching survivors in their communities and in their comfort zones.

 

Partnerships with diverse service providers and community organizations will assist in efforts to collectively address the diversity of survivors needs including those vulnerable and under-served populations like youth and families, LGBTI, older adults, people with disabilities, and visible minorities.

 

The critical elements for a relevant and appropriate local response to sexual violence necessitates a rurally-based , survivor-centred model which addresses a glaring need for continuous and appropriate care with choice and support in Lunenburg and Queens county here and now.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Contributors

 

Acting Together Project Team - Dianne Crowell and Stacey Godsoe

 

Advisory Committee - Elisabeth Bailey, Sue Bookchin, John Collyer, Jeanne Fay, Helen Lanthier, Katherine McCarron, Wendy Rockwell, Nancy Ross, Suki Starnes, Sadie Watson

 

Second Story Women’s Centre Staff - Jeanne Fay, Sally Hutchinson, Elisabeth Bailey, Marilyn Zinowki, Linda Zinowki

 

Sexual Assault Services Working Group

 

Service Agency representatives from Lunenburg and Queens Counties

 

Survivors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. References

 

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Testa, Maria, Carole VanZile-Tamsen, Jennifer A. Livingston, and Amy M. Buddie. The Role of Women’s Alcohol Consumption in Managing Sexual Intimacy and Sexual Safety Motives. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 67 (5): 665-74. 2006

 

Tri-County Women’s Centre’s Final Project Report, Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls, 2009

 

Young, M. E., Nosek, M.A., Howland, C.A., Chanpong, G., Rintala, D. H. Prevalence of Physical Abuse of Women with Physical Disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Special Issue. Vol. 78. 1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix A:

 

Letters of Support from –      Bridgewater Police Service

                                               

                                                SchoolsPlus

                                               

                                                Lunenburg Mayor, Rachel Bailey

 

                                                Mahone Bay Mayor, Joseph Feeney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix B:

 

Contact List

 

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[5] Sexual Assault in NS: A Statistical Profile. NS ACSW, May 2009

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[8] NS ACSW, Fact Sheet on Sexual Violence, 2011

[9] Sexual Assault in NS: A Stat Profile. NSACSW, May 2009

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[16] Sexual Assault in NS: A Statistical Profile, NS Advisory Council on the Status of Women, December 2005

[17] Nova Scotia Community Counts 2011, “Crime Breakdown by Type of Offence, Lunenburg County”, http://www.gov.ns.ca/finance/communitycounts/

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[19] Nova Scotia Community Counts 2011, “Crime Breakdown by Type of Offence, Queen’s County

[20] Statistics Canada, 2009 General Social Survey

[21] 2011 NS Community Counts Census and Stats Can, Criminal Victimization in Canada, 2004

[22] Tri-County Women’s Centre’s Final project report, Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls, 2009

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[24] Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, "Gender Based Analysis", 2012

[25] Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, "Gender Based Analysis", 2012

[26] Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, "Gender Based Analysis", 2012

[27] All stats from NS Native Women’s Association’s “Gender Based Analysis”, 2012

[28] Stats Can “Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends”, Police reported violence against girls under age 12, 2011

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[30] Stats Can: “Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile”, 2009

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[36] Johnson, Holly. “Assessing the Prevalence of Violence Against Women in Canada”, 2005

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[44] Alberta Health, Facts on Edler Abuse, 2013

[45] Statistics Canada: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Seniors as Victims of Violent Crime. 2004/2005

[46] Nova Scotia Domestic Violence Resource Centre. Same Sex Relationships. 2012

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[48] McClennen, J., Summers, A. and Vaughan, C. Gay Men's Domestic Violence: Dynamics, Help-seeking Behaviours and Correlates. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 14(1), 23 - 49. 2002

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[52] Foa E.B. Trauma and Women: course predictors and treatment. Journal Clinical Psychiatry, 1997; 58: 25-28

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[55] Crime Victim Research and treatment Center: Rape in America. Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, 1992

[56] Day, T. The Health-Related Costs of Violence Against Women in Canada: The Tip of the Iceberg, 1995

[57] Greaves, L Selected Estimates of the Cost of Violence Against women. 1995