Trauma training for front-line staff will help victims of sexual violence

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HALIFAX – People working directly with survivors of sexual violence can better respond to their needs after participating in the two-day workshop Beyond Trauma.

"The approach generates hope for healing. Women feel they are not alone," said participant Brenda Wood, a transition house worker at Chrysalis House in Kentville. "The training is respectful, helps remove stigma and empowers staff and the women we are working with."

The Coverdale Courtwork Society hosted workshop, which finished today, May 7, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month with partners Halifax Regional School Board, SchoolsPlus, the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice program and the Department of Justice.

"So often people have been hurt and have not had the opportunity to heal from trauma," said Janet Briggs, a member of the Coverdale board and manager of the province's restorative justice program. "Trauma such as sexual violence is at the heart of many issues for women and girls, and can affect our ability to recover, whether we get in trouble with the law, mental illness and addictions, our future health and well-being."

Beyond Trauma is based on a woman-centred treatment for outpatient, residential and criminal justice settings. The presenter, Stephanie Covington, is a clinician, lecturer and consultant recognized internationally for her work at the Institute for Relational Development and the Centre for Gender and Justice in California.

"Coverdale has brought in an international expert to help front-line staff across the province learn about trauma and how to identify it," said Status of Women Minister Marilyn More, who is co-ordinating provincial actions to better protect girls, women and all Nova Scotians from sexual violence. "Collaborations such as this one are going to make a difference for women and youth who have been hurt by sexual violence."

More than 100 people from across government and community, health care, education, and policing and corrections organizations attended the workshop at Mount Saint Vincent University.

"This interagency partnership will build capacity within our organizations by equipping more professionals with the skills to provide trauma-specific services to women," said Marlene Ruck Simmonds, SchoolsPlus leader, Halifax Regional School Board. "Staff will be better positioned to recognize the systemic changes that need to occur within their organizations and society, to promote a culture that heals and empowers girls and young women."

Participating organizations included Adsum House, Antigonish Women's Resource Centre, the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, Elizabeth Fry Society, Mi'kmaw Family Healing Centre, Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, Phoenix Centre for Youth, Stepping Stone, Tri-County Women's Centre and Veith House.

"So many people are struggling, especially women and children," said Shelley Robinson, community outreach co-ordinator for Bryony House in Halifax, who attended the workshop. "We will be able to take this training back to women so that they can move forward in their lives."

The province provided funding so organizations could send a representative.

The province recently announced a $1.1-million investment to expand services provincewide for victims of sexual violence and their families. The funding will go to collaborations among groups to help more victims, especially where services are limited, seed money to help organizations expand their reach for more treatment and prevention, and emergency funding to meet increased demand for front-line services.

Organizations: Halifax Regional School Board, Chrysalis House, Coverdale Courtwork Society Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Department of Justice Coverdale board Institute for Relational Development Centre for Gender Mount Saint Vincent University Adsum House Resource Centre Fry Society Healing Centre Phoenix Centre Veith House Bryony House

Geographic location: California, Kentville, Nova Scotia

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