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MLA speaks out about sexual assault as Avalon limits counselling services

Lenore Zann says women's centres need more support from government 
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Lenore Zann, MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River (nslegislature.ca)

An NDP MLA and sexual assault survivor is stressing the importance of counselling services for victims of sexualized violence.

This comes after the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre put a pause on new cases due to an overwhelming volume of requests.

Lenore Zann, MLA for Truro-Bible Hill and NDP Status of Women spokesperson, said she isn't surprised the non-profit is being forced a hold on new requests.

"I felt even while we were in office that the NDP could have done more," offered Zann. "And now that the Liberals are in office and have been for six years, they should be doing more. Women's centres have made it very clear to government that they need help."

Zann herself is a sexual assault survivor and opened up about a past incident she experienced many years ago while in Croatia.

"I ended up staying in the country and basically living on the kindness of strangers, and unfortunately I trusted the wrong person at one point in time and I was raped," said Zann.

The former actor said she still experiences nightmares and trauma related to the incident. Zann said that is why survivors need support services.

"If you don't get the help at the time, it stays with you, it gets buried deep inside and it festers and it smolders and it's always there," she said. "It effects our emotional and personal relationships, and it affects the way we feel about ourselves."

Zann is calling on the McNeil government to increase funding to existing services to ensure they can be expanded, rather than halted.

"It's not for want of me asking and trying as a spokesperson and critic for this particular portfolio. They're well aware, and women's centres have made it very clear to government that they need help."

Avalon's Executive Director Jackie Stevens said Statistics Canada data shows that in 2017, rates of police-reported sexual assaults were the highest in Canada since the 1990's. 

"Sexualized violence is a huge societal issue," said Stevens. "It's not going away."

This is the first time in the 23 years Avalon Sexual Assault Centre has offered counselling that it is unable to take on new requests for the service.

Stevens is asking the public to continue checking back for updates, as the centre works to find a solution.

"We appreciate the support and the understanding and we're working to address this," Stevens said.




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Chris Halef

About the Author: Chris Halef

Chris is a reporter for HalifaxToday.ca and NEWS 95.7. In 2018, he won the RTDNA Dave Rogers Award for best short feature.
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