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Closing health gaps: Thousands of healthcare providers educated on the impacts of sexual assault

December 4, 2017

By Anne Coffey

In 2004, when the Ontario government launched the Domestic Violence Action Plan, an important step was taken towards ensuring that women could live without fear of violence at home, at work and in their communities.

Robin Mason, PhD
Robin Mason, PhD

As part of the Domestic Violence Action Plan initiative, Women’s College Hospital (WCH) embarked on the creation of DVeducation.ca, a free, evidence-based, interactive curricula on intimate partner abuse and sexual violence.

Since its inception, more than 20,000 individuals have registered to use at least one of the educational programs:

  • Responding to Domestic Violence in Clinical Settings
  • Making Connections: When Domestic Violence, Mental Health, and Substance Use Problems Co-Occur
  • Addressing Past Sexual Assault in Clinical Settings

“Our curricula have been designed for a variety of health professionals – everyone from physiotherapists to nurses to medical technologists,” says Robin Mason, PhD, lead developer in the curricula and a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute. “These initiatives are making a difference in the lives of women. Together we have made great progress and we are committed to do more.”

With continued funding by the Ministry of the Status of Women, a fourth curriculum is expected to launch in the spring. The new program Responding to the Commonly Misunderstood Sequelae of Sexual Assault aims to educate providers on the broad range of reactions survivors may experience following a sexual assault.

“We hope that this evidence-informed, interactive and engaging tool will help providers not only challenge their own assumptions and unconscious biases, but also learn more about the long-term physical, psychological and social impacts of sexual assault so that they can provide the most sensitive and appropriate care for women,” says Mason.

Did you know …

Sexual assault can be very traumatic and women respond differently:

  • There are many different reactions to sexual assault. You cannot tell if a woman has been sexually assaulted by her behaviour.
  • A woman who has been assaulted may be crying, or she may be calm. She may be silent, or she may be very angry and articulate.
  • The effects of sexual assault may occur immediately after the assault, or many years later.

Source: Ministry of the Status of Women 

 To learn more about what Women’s College Hospital is doing to close the Health Gaps click here.


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