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Sexual violence a prevalent issue in Saskatchewan: researchers

Sexual violence a prevalent issue in Saskatchewan: researchers
WATCH: A sexual violence action plan explores changes that need to be made to prevent sexual violence in Saskatchewan.

Sexual violence is a difficult topic to talk about, but a new study says a lot of work needs to be done in Saskatchewan to deal with it.

Saskatchewan’s first five-year sexual violence action plan was released Wednesday. Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan (USask), Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and the Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan (SASS) surveyed sexual violence survivors from across the province.

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Part of the problem is that Saskatchewan has much higher rates of sexual assault compared to the national average.

In Canada, there’s an average of nearly 60 sexual assaults among 100,000 people. But the rate is almost double in Saskatchewan, with an average of 104 per 100,000 people. Nearly 90 per cent of victims are women.

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The sexual violence action plan presents 22 different actions the researchers found need to be taken to prevent assaults in the future.

Challenges with sexual assault cases and the legal system
Challenges with sexual assault cases and the legal system

“Being the first comprehensive sexual violence report in the province will be the beginning of the body of work in sexual violence research,” SASS project coordinator Patience Umereweneza said.

“We hope it’s used to make evidence formed decisions by law makers [and] policy makers.”

There are four foundational components within the 22 suggested actions including prevention and education, along with support and intervention.

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The researchers said the narrative around sexual violence also needs to shift, so victims feel less shame for situations that aren’t their fault. Many of the victims surveyed noted the challenge of talking about and reporting sexual assaults.

“What if you don’t survive? What if you’re still broken?” one said about fears of reporting sexual violence.

“I have been sexually assaulted more times than I can bear to recall. You never really feel safe or prepared and for me, it just got harder to cope each time,” another survivor shared with the researchers.

The action plan is expected to be updated as necessary in the years to come.