Nova Scotians across the province are recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness month, which was proclaimed today, April 1. “Sexual assault has a devastating impact on the lives of many Nova Scotians,” said Minister responsible for the Status of Women Joanne Bernard. “Eliminating sexual assault and sexual violence from our society is not a task for one government, one community, one organization or one individual. “We must work together, throughout this month and every day throughout the year, to take action in preventing sexual assault and to ensure we have the appropriate supports and services in place to help those who have been impacted.” Last fall, the government announced that it would develop the province’s first sexual violence strategy. Preliminary planning on the strategy began in February. The three-year strategy will focus on prevention and services for victims. The public engagement phase will begin later this spring. “Sexual assault and sexual violence impacts Nova Scotians, directly and indirectly, from all walks of life throughout the province,” said Ms. Bernard, who is leading the development of the strategy. “There has been great work done to date across community and government sectors. The sexual violence strategy is the next step to ensure we do everything we can to decrease these crimes and ensure victims and their families get better supports.” Service providers, community organizations, partners, and citizens will help to identify actions as to how this strategy can move us forward together. “Sexual violence is a serious crime often under-reported by victims. Women are eleven times more likely than men to be victims of sexual offences,” said Verona Singer, co-ordinator Halifax Regional Police Victim Services. “We have to begin conversations about what is going on here.” This month will include the launch of a joint video campaign by the Halifax Regional Police, RCMP and Halifax Regional Municipality, entitled Be More Than a Bystander. The campaign was initially introduced in 2012 by the Halifax Regional Police. This year, the RCMP and HRM joined as partners and new messages were added from Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Mike Savage and the Halifax Regional Police/RCMP Integrated Sexual Assault Investigation Team. This April, Nova Scotians will have an opportunity to learn, share information and have critical conversations about sexual assault through a series of events being organized by women’s centres, sexual assault centres, and other community groups and leaders. Information about events planned throughout the province for Sexual Assault Awareness Month can be found at http://women.gov.ns.ca/ . “I invite all Nova Scotians into join in the discussion on how we can support resiliency, to provide a space to help to give a voice to those who have been impacted, and work together to do more to prevent sexual assaults from occurring in the first place, as well as ensure we have the right supports in place to help victims,” said Ms. Bernard. “Today, and every day, we are sending a clear message that Nova Scotia does not tolerate sexual assault or sexual violence.” An official launch event at Province House in Halifax has been postponed and will be rescheduled later this month. More information on where people can turn if they need help is available at http://novascotia.ca/help/ .