Nova Scotia funds consent education for young men
Nova Scotia's strategy is in part a response to the 2013 death of Rehtaeh Parsons
It is a sea change in governmental response to sexual assault: Nova Scotia is funding new programs to teach young men about consent and "positive masculinity," in a bid to address the causes of sexual violence rather than just its aftermath.
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"Our youth, male and female both, felt there was a need to educate young boys," Juliana Julian, health director of Paqtnkek Mi'kmaq Nation, said Monday.
"We were talking about consent but we were missing half of population."
Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard announced two projects aimed at aboriginal boys and men worth about $50,000 in Truro on Monday, with $150,000 going to Mi'kmaq organizations overall.
Targeting societal causes of sexual violence
Last week, the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association received $29,000 for a project encouraging young men, especially those in the athletic community, to become leaders in speaking out against sexual violence.
Sarah Granke, who is coordinating the province's $1.2-million sexual violence prevention strategy, said the programs announced Monday target the societal causes of sexual violence.
"We need to be looking not at only how it affect women and girls, but how it affects everybody," said Granke.
"Gender roles and stereotypes are definitely a factor in this. It's a gendered issue."
Inspired by Rehtaeh Parsons story
Nova Scotia's strategy is in part a response to the 2013 death of Rehtaeh Parsons, who was taken off life-support after attempting suicide. Her case attracted national attention when her family alleged she had been sexually assaulted and then repeatedly bullied online after a digital photo of the alleged assault was shared among students at school.
The initiative also follows the Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi scandals, which sparked a conversation across North America about consent and sexual violence.
Granke said the funding announced Monday comes in response to applications from grassroots groups, and other projects in other communities will be announced later.
The Paqtnkek Mi'kmaq Nation in Antigonish will receive $46,000 to work with boys in Grades 7 and 8 to explore consent, healthy relationships and masculinity. The program is intended to be a counterpart to a similar one at the Antigonish Women's Health Centre that has been around for at least a decade.
Preventing future sexual violence
The Mawio'miokuom society of Membertou was granted $5,000 for another program targeted at male youth.
"(It's) not about placing the onus on someone else to keep themselves safe but how we prevent it from happening in the first place," Granke said.
Jackie Stevens, director of Halifax's Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, said on Monday there are already groups, like the White Ribbon Foundation and Wise Guyz, that are organized by men seeking to end male sexual assault against women. Educators at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, N.S., have also created "guys-only" discussion groups tackling issues of masculinity.
Stevens hopes these programs will not only deter sexual violence, but also encourage male victims to come forward.