02/10/2015 03:19 EST | Updated 04/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Sex Assault Victims In Alberta's Small Communities To Benefit From Federal Funds

Sexual assaults are already under-reported and even more so in rural areas and smaller centres.

Simone Becchetti via Getty Images

CALGARY - An initiative to co-ordinate help for sexual assault victims in Alberta is being expanded over the next two years.

The CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services said $165 thousand received from the federal government will be used to create comprehensive response teams in five new Alberta communities, including Medicine Hat and Fort McMurray.

Debra Tomlinson says sexual assaults are already under-reported and even more so in rural areas and smaller centres.

The organization will work to improve responses for women and girls by working with sexual assault crisis centres throughout the province.

Tomlinson says a yet-to-be-named First Nations community is also in the queue to be part of the expansion.

The funding will go toward hiring a project co-ordinator and a sexual assault specialist nurse

A video will also be produced to instruct doctors and nurses on how to use the RCMP forensic evidence kit.

"Once again, using technology to make it a little bit easier for professionals in rural communities to access the kind of information they need," said Tomlinson.

"They don't have specialized co-ordinated sexual assault response teams. They have services and many of the services are already in place. What we're going to help them do is work together better."

Kellie Leitch, the Minister of Labour and Status of Women, said when she was growing up in Fort McMurray there were no services available for women who had been victimized and they had to rely on friends and neighbours.

It's still a problem today, she said.

"I think this is a genuine concern and that's why we're delighted to support a program like this," Leitch said.

"Making sure Canadians who live in rural areas are provided services is very important. It's not just in this area."

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