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Sexual assault survivor calls for funding as N.S. counselling grants expire

Sexual assault survivor calls for funding as N.S. counselling grants expire
From CBC - February 15, 2018

Sitting sipping tea at a kitchen table, a Pictou County woman recalls the three excruciating days she waited, without being able to shower, for a team of nurses to examine her after she was sexually assaulted in her own home.

Her struggle did not end there. In the months that followed, she was gripped by fear and anxiety.

"I could not play with my kid in the yard. I could not go to the store. Even just going to the grocery store, I would start panicking. I could not do it," she said.

That began to change the day she walked through her counsellor's door.

Three years after her attack, she said she still struggles with anxiety but now she's worried about whether the support she receivedwill be there for others who have been raped or sexually abused.

Counselling services for many survivors across Nova Scotia could end when provincial grants expire March 31. Over two years, $2.5 million was distributed to nine regions as part of the wider $6-million sexual assault strategy, which also includes prevention and education programs.

A progress report onthe strategy found it offered hundreds of people group and private counselling sessions.

"I am so confused as to how the government could think that the services no longer have valuethat what I went through is never going to happen again," said the Indigenous woman, who no longer lives in Pictou County. CBC has agreed to protect her identity.

"There's no timeline on how long it takes, on how long you feel unsafe after something that horrible happens to you."

The Department of Community Services declined the CBC's request for an interview but said the grants always had a time limit.

"They are coming to an end as expected, as of March 2018," department spokesperson Bruce Nunn said in a statement.

He said the department is now going through the budget review process and deciding which programs related to sexual violence will receive funding.

The expiring funding is also a concern for trauma therapist Margaret Mauger, who counsels people at the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre in Truro.

"It's stressful because we do not know what April 2018, what that fiscal year is going to look like. We may have to start telling clients that they are going to have a wait time of two to three months," she said.

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