Avalon Sexual Assault Centre Concerned about the
Prevalence of Youth Sexual Assault in NS

For immediate release

April 10, 2013

HALIFAX – Avalon Sexual Assault Centre wishes to express our deepest sympathies to the family of Rehtaeh Parsons.  It is a horrendous tragedy that a young woman of 17 who was a victim of sexual assault felt she had to end her life to end her suffering.

“When did sexualized violence, sexual harassment, and stalking become bullying?” asks Irene Smith, Executive Director.   What we are dealing with is revictimization.  These negative social responses, lack of action, or systemic delays when someone has been sexually assaulted or seeks services can lead to tragedies such as this.”

Unfortunately this situation is not uncommon.  The sad reality is that all too often we hear from youth and young adults that are afraid to report any form of sexualized victimization because of the multiple hazards and negative social responses that may follow.  In 2011/12 the Avalon Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program attended to 119 immediate sexual assaults.  Sixty Three percent of the victims were females between the ages of 13 and 25.  Often these cases involved alcohol and multiple perpetrators and frequently victims indicated that the assault was witnessed, photographed or videoed.  As a result many experienced further harassment and revictimization.

“This is becoming so common that it’s almost as if we are normalizing this behavior.  The focus often in these situations becomes about the bullying and perceptions of victims. We are desensitized to the reality of sexualized violence in the lives of young women and girls. “When a woman is sexually assaulted she is called a slut; but there are no consequences for the people who commit sexual offences.  What message does this also send to boys and young men?” Smith further inquires.

The first ever comprehensive provincial needs assessment “Suffering in Silence” was released in 2008.  It identifies that there is no comprehensive response to sexual assault in Nova Scotia.  Avalon Centre has been advocating with all levels of government for adequate sexual assault resources in HRM and province wide.  Until adequate resources are in place to appropriately address sexualized violence in our province these tragic stories will continue.


For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:
Irene Smith, 422-4240 (office)

The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization working to eliminate sexual assault/abuse, and to change the current socio-political culture that fosters sexism, social injustice and other forms of oppression.