TRURO – It’s an issue that affects everyone, whether directly or not, in one form or another.
That’s why Margaret Mauger, executive director of the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, is hoping to bring light to sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“I always say it affects somebody on some level,” said Mauger. “If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you most likely do know someone that has been sexually abused or assaulted. It has an impact on your, the communities, the mental health system, addictions and the workforce.
“It’s more prevalent than people realize.”
This year, the province will celebrate Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, finally joining the rest of the provinces in the country. Previously, Nova Scotians celebrated the month in May.
“It’s important to recognize the month because it’s an opportunity to get out the facts and information on the issue, and to clarify some of the myths out there,” she said.
“People feel so alone and isolated, but they need to know that they are not alone, there is support and healing is possible.”
Last year during the month, Mauger held a dozen presentations and about 12 people participated in a walk. During the walk, Mauger tied teal ribbons to willing businesses’ doors or railings, while participants handed out teal bracelets and pins.
Mauger currently only has a few presentations booked, but knows that will increase when she sends out information to local schools, organizations and businesses.
Along with the walk scheduled for April 16 at noon beginning at the Central Nova Women’s Resource Centre, Mauger will be one of the presenters during the Vagina Monologues at the Marigold Cultural Centre on April 5.
“The big mission that I have been on is trying to make sure the province’s sexual violence strategy is inclusive of everyone. It doesn’t affect just women, but men and transsexuals as well. A lot of people think it’s a women’s issue, but it’s not,” she said.
During 2012, Mauger met with 109 clients – those accessing counselling. That number doesn’t include anyone that requested information on sexual assault and abuse.
Last year, she said all the numbers would have increased.
“Because of the Rehtaeh Parsons case, my phone calls doubled, my emails doubled,” she said, referencing a Cole Harbour teen that took her own life after an alleged sexual assault followed by bullying.
Over the course of the last year, Mauger started a new program that she hopes will run again in the fall.
“It’s an 11-week program for women who have experienced trauma,” she said, adding only three women participated in the program the first time around.
“And I’m also collaborating with Bridges to offer a healing support group for males who have experienced sexual abuse and assault.”
For the work Mauger has been doing with all victims of sexual assault and abuse, she was one of the first two recipients of the Dr. Burnley Allan (Rocky) Jones Human Rights Award.
Everyone is welcome to join in on the Sexual Assault Awareness Month walk on April 16. Those wishing to participate are asked to meet at the Central Nova Women’s Resource Centre on Prince Street by noon.
For more information on sexual assault and abuse, as well as programs the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre is offering, call 897-4366 or visit www.colchestersac.ca.
FACTS & STATS
One out of four girls and one out of six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 16 (Statistics Canada, 2006).
80 to 85 per cent of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim (Statistics Canada, 2010).
Most sexual assaults happen in familiar places such as someone’s house, in a car, or at a party.
Sexual assault or rape can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ability.
Aboriginal women are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence (including sexual assault) than non-aboriginal women (Statistics Canada, 2006).
83 per cent of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime (METRAC, 2001).
Sexual assault is the most underreported crime. It is estimated that 9-out-of-10 sexual assaults are not reported (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2004).
Majority of campus sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol and/or drugs.
Over half of sexual assault victims reported to police are children under the age of 18 (Statistics Canada, 2007).