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Open letter to Stephen McNeil: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners urgently needed in Colchester County

November 11, 2018

Honourable Stephen McNeil
Office of the Premier
PO Box 726
Halifax, NS B3J 2T3

RE: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners in Colchester County

Dear Premier and members of the provincial government of Nova Scotia,

I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

In September 2018, it was reported by various news media outlets, that Premier Stephen McNeil said the SANE program should be made available in Truro, NS after a young sexual assault victim sought help from the Colchester East Hants Health Centre but was given pamphlets, and turned away. 

Thank you for approving the expansion of the SANE program to Truro. However, it is now November, and sadly, we are still waiting for this program. I am inquiring on the status of implementing this much needed program, in Colchester County, and requesting that you update the public with a timeline for this project.

And this is a matter that should concern the public. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are trained to properly collect evidence – a practice commonly called “a rape kit exam”. That evidence might also be used in the conviction of a violent criminal. Forensic evidence that these nurses collect can be stored for up to six months. Ideally with the support of front-line workers like the SANE nurses charges can be laid. After all, isn’t that what we all want? These nurses provide a vital service to the entire community, and not just to the victims of sexual assault – even though they are a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners priority.

SANE are trained on how to properly refer victims to further services to help them in their recovery. Victims and survivors deserve dignity, respect, and choices when they reach out for support. I believe that you only need to tell your story once. Not have to travel place to place to place to figure out what services are out there when you already have been traumatized.

Around this time last year – during the #metoo movement – StatsCan reports, In 2017, the number of victims of police-reported sexual assault in Canada peaked in October, coinciding with the widespread #MeToo social media movement. The number of reports made in October and November of 2017 were higher than any other calendar month since comparable data became available in 2009.” (Police-reported sexual assaults…, 2018). I am sure the #MeToo movement has helped victims feel that they too can come forward, and go ahead with reporting. It is your duty to provide the ways and means for the safe facilitation of victim services in Nova Scotia. I urge you to follow through, promptly, and to please keep the public apprised of your progress.

Please also consider in your evaluation, that there are so many more cases going unreported; and rate of sexual assault among aboriginal women is 3 times higher than the rate of non-aboriginal women.

Having this program here sexual assault victims can make informed decisions about reporting the sexual assault to the police, and getting much needed medical care. Currently, they are being denied that basic right – this is an urgent matter.

Colchester region is the largest area in the province of Nova Scotia. Sadly, it’s a classic case of the have and the have nots. All areas of this province should have proper access to these services. 

Thank you for your time, and consideration of this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Shelley Sprague
Halifax, NS

See also: Not even a hug for Truro rape victim


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