April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Nova Scotia. The PC Caucus has introduced legislation aimed at educating and protecting Nova Scotians, while sending a message that elected officials have a duty to survivors to keep the issue front and center.
PC MLAs Karla MacFarlane and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin say that it will take prolonged discussion and awareness to make sure everyone understands how often these assaults occur.
“If sexual assault is to be taken seriously, we can’t be shy about having these important conversations,” says MacFarlane who represents Pictou West. “This is a serious crime and I will always make it my priority to help combat sexual assault so we may all live in healthier and safer communities.”
In addition to Wednesday's late debate on sexual assault, the PC’s have devoted three bills on the topic.
Bill 20 to Amend the Medical Act to guard against sexual assault
Bill 90 to amend the Education Act to teach children about human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
And Denim Day Act; legislation that MacFarlane will bring forward today (Friday.)
The Denim Day Act is designed to fight back against stereotypical and sexist tropes that hurt victims. It takes its name from an Italian court case where a judge ruled that a survivor could not have been assaulted because she wore jeans that were “too tight” to have been removed by the assailant. The ruling incited protests and encouraged multiple other jurisdictions to recognize the day.
Meanwhile, Cumberland North MLA Smith-McCrossin’s legislation amends the Medical Act to prevent physicians from practicing medicine for a minimum of five years if they are found guilty of sexual assault.
"We have a responsibility to be the voice for the many victims, who for many reasons, are unable to come forward,” says Smith-McCrossin. “We have a responsibility to increase awareness, and ensure supports are put in place for victims and measures for perpetrators, to stop the cycle of abuse.”
“We also have a responsibility to put Legislation in place to protect the public.”
Stats Canada data suggests that only 5 percent of sexual assaults are reported. MacFarlane, who has been relentless in the fight against the trafficking of women and girls over the past two legislative sessions, says that a culture change is required.
“As the PC critic for Status of Women, it is my hope that during Sexual Assault Awareness Month that people recognize the importance of encouraging all genders to become more aware and educated on sexual violence,” says MacFarlane. “Everyone should have the courage to stand up and help stop this heinous crime when they see it happening.”