© Braedon Clark - METRO HALIFAX
Nova Scotians have a week left to weigh in on the province’s first strategy on sexual violence, and the co-chair of the strategy says it’s a rare chance that shouldn’t be wasted.
“People really can impact change. You don’t need to be a civil servant, you don’t need to work for the government,” said Rene Ross. “Opportunities don’t come along, unfortunately, very often for us to do some really good work on this issue.”
The three-year strategy, which will receive $2 million annually, will focus on both preventing sexual violence and addressing immediate needs like better resources for victims and survivors.
“Do folks know what the services are? Do they know where to go?” said Ross. “Not only is more support and resources needed, but there is that patchwork across the province where there’s some services in one place and no services in other places.”
Ross, the former executive director of Stepping Stone, said community leadership will be essential to breaking the silence and confronting the vast, complex problem of sexual violence.
“This is what we’re hearing…here’s the gaps, here’s what I believe my community needs, here’s what exists in my community now, this is what is working now, this is what is working for other folks,” said Ross. “We need to support the involvement and leadership of those most impacted.”
Beyond the immediate actions, Ross said the strategy will also be focused on more long-term ideas involving youth engagement and leadership to prevent sexual violence.
“We need to be sure that this isn’t just a one-off,” she said. “We need to inform and engage folks on this, and we need to keep that dialogue going.”
Ross said a “positive” response to the survey, along with meetings with more than 20 service providers, has already helped lay the foundation for the new strategy.
She said every submission will be reviewed individually, no matter what it contains, and urged everyone to take part – especially critics who may be skeptical that a government plan will make any difference.
“When people that are making policy and laws don’t hear from those most impacted, you get bad laws that hurt people,” she said. “I’ve seen that time and time and time again for a very long time.”