One in three females will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. One in six men will too, according to Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan (SASS).
That’s just part of the reason why SASS said it launched its 22-point action plan to end sexual violence in the province.
The plan was announced on the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Week in Saskatchewan.
“We travelled to over 22 communities and spoke to over 1,000 survivors, family members, and service providers,” said project coordinator Patience Umereweneza.
The conversations were part of a research-based approach for the plan, which was worked on for 18 months after SASS received funds from the federal government. The plan has initial funds but is looking to allocate more as it unfolds over the next five years.
“The findings from that then informed the development of the plan,” she said. “Recommendations were made out of 13 core service areas and those recommendations were boiled down into 22 actions that are manageable within the next five years.”
The plan has four chapters: prevention and education, support and intervention for people who experience sexual violence, responsive legal and justice systems, and collaborative leadership and accountability.
“We talked about prevention and education knowing that, you know, that really is the foundation of addressing attitudes and beliefs, empowering folks to have the ability to be active bystanders, giving folks the ability to appropriately accept disclosures when they do come, and just being informed,” Umereweneza said.
The legal system was identified as an area where “folks are having the most difficulties”, which is why there are five actions dedicated to the topic.
Umereweneza said the plan may not bring the number of sexual assaults down in the next five years, but what they do hope is that survivors and victims of sexual assault are “treated with dignity and respect,” and it will “have impacts on [the] overall quality of life for a lot of folks, and enhance what already existed in the province.”
“We’re hoping we can bring up the profile of sexual violence, make it clear that this is a priority that we recognize as a stand-alone issue that we can address.”
When it comes to misinformation with sexual assaults, Umereweneza said consent is often misinterpreted.
“I think a lot of folks feel that if the survivor was drunk or incapacitated that they had a responsibility in being assaulted,” she said. “Whatever you do you, you are not responsible for the assault that happens to you.”
She said sexism, and the idea that children may lie about being sexually assaulted, are often misinformed areas as well.
Umereweneza said based on engagement with the governments they’re working with – the provincial, federal, municipal, and Indigenous – they’re “confident” they’ll be able to secure funding for the plan’s implementation.
SASS also has plans to speak with the business community for funding.
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