By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With sexual assault becoming a growing problem the Alberta government is working on ways to ensure everyone can get help, regardless of where they live. At a recent rural round table meeting, MLA for Calgary-Peigan Tanya Fir, and Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, announced the government’s new program to help sexual assault survivors in rural communities.
“I am so pleased to be here to share with everyone some of the work that the Status of Women have done to support sexual assault survivors in our province,” said Fir. “We know that many rural and remote areas of Alberta survivors of sexual violence may have to travel large distances to access a sexual assault evidence kit or a SAEK for short. These kits are used by police to collect forensic evidence to use in their investigation of sexual assaults, however, if a survivor’s local hospital doesn’t have healthcare providers who are trained or comfortable in performing evidence collection they may need to find another facility with the capacity to help, and in rural areas this can be 100 kilometres away sometimes. Unfortunately many survivors therefore forgo the option of having their evidence collected, and sadly, this is a decision that survivors have to make too often. That’s why I’m so incredibly glad to say that we are working with Northwestern Polytechnic to change this.”
Following her opening statements Fir went into detail on how exactly this partnership will work.
“Every person who has been sexually assaulted deserves access to care and forensic evidence collection regardless of where they live, and as part of Alberta’s government’s $1 million investment in Status of Women we have provided funding for Northwestern Polytechnic in Grande Prairie to develop an online course and train our hard-working healthcare providers to perform forensic evidence collection,” said Fir.
“The course focuses on the technical and emotional skills required to administer a SAEK exam, and as well if you are a healthcare professional working in a rural area the government of Alberta will pay the fees for you to take this course. Our government is committed to provide the resources that are needed to perform these exams for all survivors of sexual assault ensuring more people are trained and comfortable and performing this critically important service will help survivors of sexual assault where, and when, they need it. I am so pleased to announce that enrolment is currently open and the first course begins on April 3. Thank you to Northwestern Polytechnic for this crucial course, and to everyone who helped make this possible. Thank you to everyone who continuously steps up and shows up for survivors of sexual assault. To healthcare providers in rural areas please take the course, that can change someone’s life. Enrol today in rural sexual assault care expanded to gain the skills and training required to administer sexual assault evidence kits.”
Michelle Wallace, associate dean, continuing education at Northwestern Polytechnic was also present at the roundtable, and briefly spoke on how the course would work.
“The course will be approximately 10 to 12 hours, it’s completely self-study,” said Wallace. “That gives the learners the flexibility to complete the modules as they have time, and there isn’t a practicum, or work-integrated learning component.”