What I Was Wearing When It Happened

A powerful window exhibit has been set up in downtown Red Deer to address victim blaming. In recognition of Family Violence Prevention Month, the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) has set up What I Was Wearing When It Happened, a reflection exhibit along Ross Street.

The purpose of the exhibit is to bring awareness to the issue of victim blaming and the stigma surrounding individual’s clothing as the reason they were sexually assaulted.

The window exhibit features powerful statements paired with various types of clothing victims were wearing at the time they were assaulted. This is meant to be a real-life representation, a visual way to bring awareness around the still existing stigma.

This is the third year for the reflection exhibit. CASASC has hosted the exhibit previously on International Women’s Day. In 2018, the exhibit was hosted at Parkland Mall featuring over 300 pairs of shoes, each representing an Alberta woman who was missing or murdered. The shoe exhibit encouraged people to reflect on the lives of those women.

In 2019, CASASC partnered with the Students’ Association of Red Deer Polytechnic (S.A.) and two third-year BScN students of RDP for a similar exhibit featuring live mannequins. The exhibit was thought-provoking and interactive.

This year the exhibit is on display as a partnership between CASASC, the John Howard Society of Red Deer and the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic.

What I Was Wearing When It Happened will be on display in the front windows facing Ross Street at 4916 50 Street until November 30. Viewers can easily peruse the window display from the sidewalk.

A Season of Giving

We are excited to launch of A Season of Giving campaign, a first for CASASC.
You can play an important role in supporting a survivor’s journey of renewal, empowerment and healing this season.
Find more info and to donate here on our campaign page on CanadaHelps: https://www.canadahelps.org/…/campaign/a-season-of-giving/

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2022

The CASASC office will be closed Friday, September 30 for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

CASASC staff, led by the Kinship Intervention Program (KIP), will be participating in reflection, awareness and educational initiatives throughout the day. We seek to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis survivors and their families, acknowledging the ongoing impacts of Residential Schools.

September 30 is also Orange Shirt Day – a national movement in Canada.

From the University of Victoria: “In this annual event, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together in the spirit of hope and reconciliation to honour former residential school students, their families and communities. We consider the impacts of the policies and actions of the Government of Canada and the churches that operated the schools.

Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake, BC in 2013 at the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event at which survivor Phyllis Webstad told the story of her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day of school at the Mission.

Orange Shirt Day occurs in early Fall because this is the time of year when children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools. The day inspires Canadians to take part in anti-racism and anti-bullying initiatives at school and work.

The residential school era began in the early 1870’s, with the last school closing in 1996. More than 150,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children attended these schools. There are an estimated 80,000 survivors living today.”

CASASC is committed to reconciliation. On Friday we will wear our orange iRespect t-shirts as a visual symbol of our awareness of the need for ongoing reconciliation and accountability.

We encourage you to seek further information about the experiences of Indigenous people, especially in regards to residential schooling.

We are here to support our community during this time. If you need support, we have our 24/7 Sexual Violence Help Line by phone at 1 866 956 1099 or by webchat at www.casasc.ca

You can also reach the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line by phone 1-866-925-4419

Have a “hot” consent summer

By Sarah Maetche

Summer is finally here. It’s time to come out of our dormant Alberta spring/winter shells and have a hot consent summer.

Like Megan the Stallion said about “hot girl summer,” we can enjoy this summer feeling confident in who we are, have fun and practice consent while doing it.

Coming out of our post-COVID reality, many are ready to get back to the things they enjoy – like hitting the beach, patios, going to social events, backyard barbeques, camping, rodeos and outdoor sporting events – especially during the summer months.

The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) encourages you to be mindful as you go about these and many more social activities with the phrase “only yes means yes” when it comes to consent in your mind.

This is the idea behind CASASC’s campaign Only Yes Means Yes (OYMY) – speaking positively about consent to change our community for the better.

Consent is an important concept in sexual violence prevention. OYMY focuses on what positive consent can sound and look like as a way to promote healthy relationships and increase a greater sense of consent culture. OYMY changes the way we look at and understand consent.

Many of us may be familiar with the saying “no means no.” This is a frequently used statement when talking about consent. This statement indicates that we are always saying “yes” until we say the word or indicate “no,” which is a lack of consent. This statement tells people that unless they indicated “no,” that was clear and understood by both involved individuals, they were giving consent.

With OYMY, we have turned the above “no” conversation on its’ head. This campaign challenges the consent conversation by reinforcing that an individual is always conveying a lack of consent (always saying “no”). The default for consent then is “no.”

It’s literally a “no” until they say “yes” with their words, their actions or with their body. Consent can only happen when a person actively and consciously says “yes” and gives/shows their consent.

Consent can be simply defined as this: a voluntary agreement between people who want to do something together. Yes, this of course applies to sexual activity, but it also applies to our everyday lives, with things like driving down Lakeshore Drive in Sylvan Lake, lining up to get ice cream at the Little Ice Cream and Soda Shoppe, attending a staff backyard party and on. When defined like this, consent applies to everyday life.

Consent is given freely. It’s chosen and ongoing.

This is why we all should aim to have a hot consent summer. Showing and saying an enthusiastic “yes” is letting that other person know that you are interested in the summer activity.

Here’s an easy way, or rather process, to give consent: 1) Know how to ask for consent. Your words matter, 2) Saying and/or showing a “yes” or “no” for yourself, 3) Hearing and/or seeing if the other person is saying “yes” or “no” and 4) Recognizing and respecting the other person’s yes or no. That’s the process – knowing, saying, hearing, recognizing and then respecting.

Sarah Maetche is the communications and administration manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate on July 7, 2022.

What we can learn from the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation case

By Sarah Maetche and Carlia Schwab

Like so many out there, we have been combing through the depths of Twitter and reading story after story on the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial. After six weeks of testimony, and with the jury currently in deliberation at the time of writing, society has seen a gut-wrenching exposure of these two working actors’ relationship.

Depp, known from the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Tim Burton films to name a few, claims a 2018 op-ed written by Heard where she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” defamed him – his career and his reputation.

Heard, known from films like Aquaman, Justice League and The Danish Girl, has countersued with the claim that Depp’s attorney called her abuse allegations a “hoax.”

The defamation trial taking place in Virgina has been live-streamed and watched by millions across the globe. Depp has received waves of support on TikTok and Twitter, showing the scales of social media justice seem to be tipped his way.

Depp and Heard were married in 2015 after meeting on the set of the film The Rum Diary. Their relationship has been volatile with a highly public divorce, multiple court appearances and accusations of both verbal and physical abuse, including sexual violence during their relationship. The defamation trail has become yet another vehicle baring the shell of their relationship.

After the verdict of the trial is heard, the court of public opinion will also have its’ ruling. In the aftermath of this over exposure, there is much we can learn from this case and how it translates into a review of support services for all survivors of domestic violence.

Individuals will no doubt offer their opinions of the pair’s relationship, the information brought to light during the trial and the outcome of the trial, often in strong alignment to either Heard or Depp’s experiences.

Open dialogue and conversations are needed in this space, shifting away from a Depp vs. Heard, “she said vs. he said” narrative, or victim blaming statements towards an empathetic understanding that both individuals have experiences of being harmed by violence and participating in harmful, often violent, behaviors.

We can learn a lot from this case, in particular how society attributes violence and victim-identifying characteristics disproportionately to one gender over another. Media and public opinion often portray domestic violence impacts and the realities of survivors as highly one-gendered and female supported, often to the detriment of male identified survivors who are too looking for support.

Placing fame, wealth, socio-economic status, popularity, power, privilege, gender and sexual orientation aside, both male and female identified individuals can be impacted by and be survivors of domestic violence.

When engaging in conversations, providing support to disclosures of violence, and deep diving into media stories, we encourage individuals to focus not only on what their beliefs, thoughts and attitudes are about this case, but to be open to alternative ways of understanding domestic and relationship violence. Every individual who has experience violence should be offered support and understanding. They should have access to support without the fear of judgement, retribution, victim blaming or of not being believed.

Over half of adult Albertans have supported, or knows someone, who has experienced sexual violence. Given the highly public and social nature of the Depp vs. Heard defamation case, consider the tone of conversations you have. You can offer an open, unbiased and supportive space for your friends, family and peers to connect and debrief, and seek out resources for support. Remember that anyone of any gender can be impacted by violence and deserves access to support.

Sarah Maetche is the communications and administration manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre. Carlia Schwab is the education and community relations manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate.

iRespect Yoga in the Park

iRespect Yoga returns, in-person and in the park. Join CASASC staff members Bailey Martineau (trauma-informed certified kids yoga teacher) and Sarah Maetche (registered yoga teacher RYT-200) for an outdoor practice at Coronation Park. Meet us both afternoons by the stone circle in the middle of the park.

We are offering two one-hour sessions designed for everyBody – all abilities, ages and bodies. Join us on May 19 at 5:30 p.m. for a hatha practice. On May 25 at 5:30 p.m. join us for a family-friendly flow.

These two outdoor yoga sessions are hosted by CASASC in celebration of Sexual Violence Awareness Month (SVAM) and bring the focus to the iRespect campaign, creating a culture of respect wherever we go.

Each session is offered by donation to CASASC (suggested donation of $5). As we are outdoors, the practices will run weather dependent. We encourage you to bring your own mat and props.

Pre-registration not required, drop-ins are welcome. Pre-register up to 2 hours before the session to fill out your waiver in advance. Pre-register here on Eventbrite.

Red Dress Day recognizes MMIWG

By Tammy Barbour

With the increasing number of unmarked graves of Indigenous children who attended residential school being uncovered across Canada, we must recognize Canada’s colonial past and the lasting negative impact to Indigenous communities.

Red Dress Day is a grassroots movement that grew out of decades of activism from families, survivors, Indigenous peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

This has identified the need for all of us to take action to address the harm and violence experienced by Indigenous peoples, specifically women, girls and 2SLBGTQQIA+ people.

The development of Canada, from a historical context, identified Indigenous women and girls as a means of colonization, population growth and of misogynistic value.

The historical colonization practice created systemic discrimination and inequities that have contributed to oversexualization and dehumanization of Indigenous women and girls.

Sexual violence remains the most under-reported crime in Canada with 95 per cent of survivors who do not report their assaults to the police. In 2014, 83,000 Albertans reported sexual assaults to the police.

The numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada continues to rise and many cases are unresolved to this day.

Indigenous women’s groups have documented the number of MMIWG to be over 4000. It is believed that the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is not definitive due to under reporting of violence and lack of ethnic reporting in databases.

According to the 2004 General Social Survey, Indigenous women 15 years and older were three and a half times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.

The Kinship Intervention Program (KIP) at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) focuses on the prevention and intervention of sexualized behaviour, historical trauma, sexual abuse, sexual violence and the support for individuals, families and communities to heal from the violence and trauma in their way.

The environments in which we live, raise our children, learn and grow as people must not reinforce the systemic and discriminatory forms of gender-based violence that has been part of our history.

We need to come together and dismantle the social environments that allow sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and the systemic discrimination and inequities entrenched in our governments, policies and practices.

With the change to these environments, we can then work together to create safe spaces for all peoples, specifically addressing the real violence that Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people face every day.

Indigenous people in Canada have faced systemic violence and oppression for generations and have lost children, mothers, aunties, sisters, and grandmothers to sexualized violence in Canada.

By recognizing and continuing the conversation we contribute to the increased awareness of MMIWG as the sexual violence still exists today.

We can increase awareness of these realities by remembering missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls along with solidarity with family members and loved ones.

Red Dress Day is a recognition that our environments are not equal for all people and that we will not accept the over sexualization of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

We ask everyone to wear red or hang a red dress in their window on Thursday, May 5 to increase awareness and contribute to the establishment of safer environments wherever they live.

It will take long-term commitment and passion to end the violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ from all aspects of the Canadian identity.

Please wear red and let the families of the MMIWG know that you hear them.

Tammy Barbour is the community engagement facilitator for the Kinship Intervention Program (KIP) of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate on May 3, 2022.

A million reasons why

By Sarah Maetche

There are a million reasons why someone who has experienced sexual or family violence won’t come forward.

Sometimes there are threats to safety. Sometimes they are threatened with legal action. Other times, the person who abused the individual holds a position of power over the victim. There are a many valid reasons why someone would not come forward to tell their story or seek justice.

Actress and activist for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse Evan Rachel Wood recently came forward and named her abuser. Following years of speculation of who was her unnamed abuser, Wood released a statement claiming she suffered years of horrific abuse by shock rocker Marilyn Manson.

In her appearance on the daytime TV show The View, Wood detailed some of the reasons why she didn’t come forward or name her abuser for over a decade. She has also recently released a documentary on the subject called Phoenix Rising.

On the talk show Wood stated that there are a million reasons why someone might not come forward such as trauma, intimidation, going up against someone who is powerful with many resources and fear of retaliation.

“Society around this issue is so geared around shame, blame and victim blaming and that is by design,” said Wood. “Even the way we speak about these things. We are still asking victim the question why they didn’t leave. And the fact that we are still asking that question tells me how much work there is to do.

“Nobody ever asks why the abuser didn’t leave,” she added. “We are programmed to ask these questions. We need to start asking different questions.”

“I am sad, because this is how it works,” said Wood who is now being sued by her alleged abuser. “This is what pretty much every survivor that tries to expose someone in a position of power goes though, and this is part of the retaliation that keeps survivors quiet. This is why people don’t want to come forward.”

There are also a million reasons why someone experiencing sexual or family violence didn’t leave an abusive relationship. These are some frequent questions we often hear asked of victims: “Why didn’t you leave?,” “Why did you tolerate the abuse?,” and “Why didn’t you do something?”

We seem to be constantly asking questions to the victim of the abuse. With this “why” narrative played over and over again, we imply some type of responsibility or blame onto the victim. This is a dangerous and slippery slope we should avoid continuing to perpetuate.

English singer-songwriter FKA twigs recently pushed back on this question after an interviewer asked her why she didn’t leave an abusive relationship.

“We have to stop asking that question,” said twigs in the interview. “I’m not going to answer that question any more. Because the question should really be to the abuser: why are you holding someone hostage with abuse? People say it can’t have been that bad, because else you would’ve left. But it’s like, no, it’s because it was that bad, I couldn’t leave.”

To avoid victim blaming and to work towards eliminating violence in our community, we can flip this narrative and start asking questions like “Why are you abusing this person you claim to love?” to the abuser. The first question in our minds should be “why didn’t the abuser stop their behaviour?” The sole responsibility of the abuse and violence should be placed on the abuser.

Like Wood said, let’s start asking different questions.

Sarah Maetche is the communications and administration manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate on April 1, 2022


Why we wear orange

CASASC reaffirms the statement that every child matters.
We honour the 215 children who were found at the Kamloops Residential School, their families and our community who is grieving at this time. We chose to wear our orange Made to Respect t-shirts today (May 31) as a visual symbol of our awareness of the need for ongoing reconciliation and accountability. We encourage you to seek further information about the experiences of Indigenous people, especially in regards to residential schooling.
We are here to support our community during this time. If you need support, we have our 24/7 Sexual Violence Help Line by phone at 1 866 956 1099 or by webchat at www.casasc.ca
You can also reach the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line by phone 1-866-925-4419

iRespect Myself, iNourish My Body – Recipe 1

The first recipe in our weekly self-care: iRespect Myself, iNourish My Body recipe series is a super easy, “pack now, eat later” Greek chicken bowl that is perfect for those busy weekday lunch ideas.

A great balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats; this Greek Chicken Bowl has everything you need to give your body back everything it requires to help you power through to the end of your workday.

Let’s all take a little bit of time this month to slow down, practice self-love and gratitude, and give back to our bodies.


This post is part of CASASC’s Respect Month – a month-long awareness campaign that acknowledges Sexual Violence Awareness Month through the concept of respect.