Sask. non-profit highlights four key priorities for curbing sexual violence
SASS wants 'immediate action' on four priorities in blueprint to end violence
You probably know someone who has experienced sexual violence — even if you don't know it — according to Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan (SASS) executive director Kerrie Isaac.
Isaac said that's why people should care about how to effectively reduce the rates of violence. In May, SASS released a 22-point action plan, meant to be a blueprint for dropping rates while shifting attitudes in the province.
Now the centre has directed the public eye to a few key points requiring "immediate attention."
"We want all 22 actions to be fulfilled, but this is a start: the first four that we have decided to prioritize," Isaac said.
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One calls for an expansion to the sexual violence first responder training. SASS has 34 certified members who can lead a two-day course that offers a comprehensive look at sexual violence.
She said they have worked with people from the military, tribal councils, police and schools. SASS wants more people to take the course and Isaac said they need to certify more people to lead the course as demand grows.
There's also a call to expand Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training to nurses in remote or rural communities. SANE nurses conduct the forensic kits at the hospital after a sexual assault and are trained to be "trauma-informed."
The program is only available in Regina, but Isaac said an expansion could ensure the "standard of care" province-wide.
She said it's crucial survivors of sexual violence are supported when they first disclose the violence or get help.
"If we put those mechanisms in place: where survivors are feeling supported, heard, safe, then they will seek those additional supports, like counselling."
Expanding the SANE program and the first responder training are good first steps toward strengthening support in all of the province, she said.
"There are some rural and remote communities, that don't even have access to services and supports, so there's huge gaps in there."
SASS is also calling for the expansion of existing trauma and violence informed counselling to meet the unique challenges seen in the province.
Calls for more public awareness
SASS's fourth key point is a call for more public awareness and education initiatives that can "challenge the attitudes and norms that perpetuate sexual violence."
Some people believe that only women are victims or that, "sexual violence perpetrators are usually in a dark alley and it's a stranger," she said. "Well, that's not the case. It's usually by friends, family and acquaintances."
Isaac noted that there has been a small shift in attitudes and there's also been movement on the action plan since it was release.
On Wednesday, the province announced a new program focused on sexual assault education training for workers in the justice system.
Justice Minister Don Morgan said that initiative was in response to recommendations made by SASS. Isaac also pointed to the provincially funded Philadelphia model, an advocate case review pilot that's underway in Regina.
Isaac said it will take continued money, time, collaboration and care to make a long-term change. She noted that while more needs to be done, she's positive.
"Sexual violence has always occurred. I feel like more individuals are not accepting of it anymore."