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Nipissing University researchers to examine Indigenous sexual assault supports

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Two Nipissing University professors are taking the lead on a case study to examine the support services available for Indigenous survivors of sexual assault.

Researchers Nancy Stevens, an assistant professor of Indigenous Studies, and Rosemary Nagy, a professor of Gender Equality and Social Justice, were awarded a Partnership Engage Grant valued at just under $25,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to further their research into available supports for Indigenous survivors of sexual assault.

The project, called ‘Indigenous Survivors, Sexual Assault Services and Bridging Cultures – A Case Study,’ will examine the Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Service’s (MPSSAS) history of providing Indigenous-specific supports for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence.

"We've been developing programs that braids together western understandings of trauma and Indigenous understandings of healing methodology," said Lauren Power, MPSSAS’ executive director.

The goal is to help agencies provide more effective supports to Indigenous clients and add to a base of promising practices when it comes to developing and delivering Indigenous-specific therapeutic supports in sexual assault centres across Ontario.

“There has been virtually no research or writing done about mainstream community sexual assault centres or services providing culturally appropriate supports to their Indigenous clients,” said Stevens.

“This funding will enable us to host some focused discussions with the staff and board of the organization to explore what has been done well, where the challenges lie, and how the supports might grow."

According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous people are more likely to face an act of sexual violence than non-Indigenous people. Approximately 4 in 10 First Nations were sexually or physically assaulted by an adult before the age of 15.

"I worked as a councillor for Indigenous mental health and I came across maybe one person who never experienced it," said Stevens.

She told CTV News that a big part of the study is to shed some light on the need to financially back support agencies.

“There's the need to improve awareness and education opportunities for the therapists and staff," said Stevens.

The researchers said the case study should be complete by the end of 2024. 

Resources for sexual assault survivors in Canada

If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual assault or trauma, the following resources are available to support people in crisis:

If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, you should call 911.

A full list of sexual assault centres in Canada that offer information, advocacy and counselling can be found at ReeseCommunity.com. Resources in your community can be found by entering your postal code. 

Helplines, legal services and locations that offer sexual assault kits in Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia can be found here.

  • National Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
  • Hope for Wellness Helpline (for Indigenous People) 1-855-242-3310
  • 24-hour crisis line: 1-416-597-8808 
  • Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010 
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366
  • Sexual misconduct support for current or former members of the Armed Forces: 1-844-750-1648

Read about your rights as a victim here.

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