Nova Scotia

Rural Nova Scotia lagging in sexual assault care

Nova Scotia needs better sexual assault services in rural areas, experts said after a CBC News investigation revealed a Pictou woman waited three days for a rape kit.

Lunenburg and Queens counties changing the way they help victims

Halifax has a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) team of 15 registered nurses. It responds to all metro hospitals within one hour of a victim reporting to triage. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

Nova Scotia needs better sexual assault services in rural areas, experts said after a CBC News investigation revealed a Pictou woman waited three days for a rape kit.

Dianne Crowell, a service coordinator at Lunenburg’s Second Story Women's Centre, said the small town faces big problems.

"To get local support services in place during the event and to reduce the effective trauma — it just wasn't happening," she said.

Police officers are usually around the victims during the medical exam, which many people find uncomfortable. RCMP officers often deliver the rape kit to the emergency room.

But Lunenburg and Queens counties recently changed that approach.

Crowell said local police have been eager to cooperate.

"Evidence will now be stored at the Bridgewater Police Department anonymously, and the person has a length of time to explore all the options available to her or him," she said.

The women's centre also received federal funding, which they're using to train nurses.

It's the same kind of approach Catherine Carter-Snell, an expert on sexual assault at Mount Royal University, has been pushing in rural areas across the country.

She has advised many provincial governments on the issue, including Nova Scotia.

"It's a four-hour training module that we're providing free to all the emergency staff and any support staff such as paramedics, police officers, social workers so that there's combined awareness of the psychological needs of patients as well as the physical needs and evidence collection," she said.   

That model will be rolled out in P.E.I. this summer.

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