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New Sexual Violence Strategy to focus on prevention, victim support

WATCH: Premier Stephen McNeil has unveiled Nova Scotia’s first ever sexual violence strategy. Global’s Marieke Walsh reports on the focus on school-aged children and the high hopes that come with it.

KENTVILLE, N.S. – The Nova Scotia government says it will create nine community support networks to help victims of sexual violence.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced the initiatives today as part of the province’s first sexual violence strategy.

McNeil said the three-year, $6-million project is aimed at raising awareness about sexual violence, prevention and improving access to services for victims.

Work on the strategy began in April 2014, starting with public consultations across the province that heard from roughly 1,000 people. The $6-million in funding started last year with the launch of the consultations, McNeil said so far about $1 million has been spent.

McNeil said the strategy will ensure there is equal support for victims of sexual violence across the province. “We’d seen there were different levels of support, because there was no unified provincial approach.”

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“So what we were getting was some good work happening in different parts of the province, but it was very different. So with this overall provincial approach now, and the coordinator, we will make sure the service delivery is the same across our province.”

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said the feedback from the public consultations indicated youth, LGBTQ, and men often felt marginalized by previous policies around sexual violence. She said Rehtaeh Parsons’ story especially reflected that.

“Always in back of mind was Rehtaeh Parsons,” said Bernard. “That tragedy really put the province in the course to really recognize that what we were doing traditionally was not working for the youngest members of our society.”

Parsons died in April 2013 after a suicide attempt. Her family said she was allegedly raped and then bullied for years before trying to take her own life at the age of 17. Her Dad, Glen Canning, was at the announcement for the new Sexual Violence Strategy, he said the strategy’s focus on prevention and education is a “step in the right direction.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if this didn’t happen in the first place,” said Canning. “If we can start taking steps now to prevent it from happening to somebody else then lets do everything we can to do that.”

Two provincial committees have also been formed. One will create new training programs around sexual violence and the second will create and launch a public awareness campaign.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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