A campaign has launched focussed on encouraging businesses and organizations in the Strait region to learn more about sexualized violence.
Every Door is the Right Door is a collaborative initiative of Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia and the Strait Area Community Response to Sexual Violence Network.
“It is for anyone who wants it,” Nancy O’Regan, Strait Area Community Response to Sexual Violence Network, said during the unveiling of the campaign, Oct. 5, at People’s Place Library in Antigonish.
In expanding on the availability of the program, she added “everyone is connected to victims of violence.”
O’Regan also explained the meaning of the initiative’s moniker, which refers to the network’s vision for Strait Area communities where everyone – women, men, youth, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, seniors and members of the LGBTQ community – are, as a press release inviting people to the launch, “offered a variety of service options that are safe, non-judgmental, accessible and appropriate.”
Clinical therapist Linda Penner MacDougall of Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia and the Men’s Health Centre in Antigonish, talked about the importance of “navigating the path towards healing.”
“We are excited and happy to be on board,” Penner MacDougall, one of the local network members who spoke during the launch, said.
Noting all Family Services of Eastern Nova Scotia staff members will participate, she said it is crucial for people – other than clinical workers – to take the program.
Penner MacDougall said “other people are often the ones that hear the first disclosure” from someone who has experience sexualized violence.
Earlier this year, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services Sexual Violence Strategy launched a free online course Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence: A Nova Scotia Resource, which provides what’s described as “a unique learning experience designed to improve service delivery and support for victims of sexual violence – breakthesilencens.ca/training.
Heather Blackburn, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program Co-ordinator, talked about how she benefitted from the training, describing the modules as “broad and incredibly informative,” while noting the “home-grown” elements that reflect Nova Scotia’s mosaic.
“We owe it to ourselves and our community,” she said, in stressing the need for people to participate in the campaign.
Describing disclosure as “an act of courage,” O’Regan said outcomes for victims of sexualized violence improve greatly “when people are there to help.”
She added, in making the pitch to businesses and organizations, a want for them “to commit to learning more.”
Blackburn noted there is a multitude of evidence that increased access to education and support is “critically important.”
She said she wished everyone was “believed, loved and supported,” when they tell someone about their experience.
But, sadly, often the reaction they receive from someone they trust with “such a brave act,” is one of “shame and blame.”
Without love and support, Blackburn said, the findings show “increased harm and trauma” for victims.
“It is the obligation and responsibility for all of us,” Blackburn said of becoming better informed.
How to participate
Leading up to the official launch, O’Regan noted, there had been several organizations already committed to taking the training.
After the launch, there were other signatories, including the Naomi Society, which signed on to the initiative.
While predicting hundreds will come on board, O’Regan reiterated the need for people to talk to their businesses and organizations about the program’s importance.
Having their businesses and organizations ‘sign-off’ on having their employees and volunteers, at least some, take the course.
‘This is huge’
Bob Martin, a survivor of sexualized violence, who has become an advocate for victims and survivors, talked about the appropriateness of ‘every door is the right door,’ as the name for the campaign.
“It makes all the difference,” he said, in commenting on the magnitude of having broader knowledge of programs and services available.
Martin stressed how crucial the support he received from the person, a plainclothes police officer, he told about how he was abused; something he disclosed as a 38-year-old.
“We didn’t choose to be abused,” he said, emphasizing “silence only benefits the abuser.”
“There is no shame – we didn’t do anything wrong,” Martin added.
In January, Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia and the Strait Area Community Response to Sexual Violence Network will deliver workshops for community members, such as coaches and volunteers.
O’Regan noted representatives will be visiting Chambers of Commerce, municipalities and other organizations, in the coming weeks to encourage them to come on board and help carry their message.
She added that, in March, there will be a celebration to recognize those who have signed on to let the community know “people care about the issue.”
“This is huge and I am happy to be part of it,” Martin said of Every Door is the Right Door.