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Why is bullying a topic we are still talking about?

By Carlia Schwab

Why is bullying a topic we are still talking about?

On February 22 many communities across Alberta will celebrate Pink Shirt Day, a day to create awareness and show your support for anti-bullying.

Here at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) we like to talk about bullying prevention all month long. We seek to help change the narrative surrounding bullying – where bullying is about what you do (the behaviour), not about who you are, a bully. Bullying behaviour is intentional, meaning it often involves one person repeatedly misusing their power/privilege to negatively impact the actions and feelings of another person or influence peers to join in.

Changing the narrative involves understanding bullying behaviour and talking about respectful relationships and positive use of power. This is something you can do at any age.



Bullying behaviour for children can be seen in a breakdown of respectful interactions with siblings and peers. Examples include pushing and shoving, throwing toys at others, not allowing others to join in a game or activity, hurting others due to strong emotional reactions (ex. hurting others who won’t share), and prioritizing their wants no matter the impact on others (ex. laughing at others for attention or pushing someone out of line because they want to be first).

Children are at an ideal age for adults to reinforce healthy relationship skills. We can teach children about the impacts of our words and actions and how to understand emotions. Use teachable moments to empower children to make more respectful decisions when interacting with others. Adults can role model healthy behaviours, show how to use respectful language to communicate with others, and reinforce strategies for calming down and re-directing our emotions so we don’t make choices to harm others.


Bullying behaviour for youth can be seen in a school or team context, by peers, friends or teammates. It is a misuse of power directed at others for personal or social gain and can be verbal or physical, involve our peers and emotions (social), and can occur using technology (cyber). Exclusion, fights, degrading comments, gossiping and rumor spreading, are all common examples of bullying behaviour that youth experience.

We can have an impact on youth bullying behaviour by reinforcing peer-to-peer relationship skills. Empowering youth to develop and use positive life skills like assertive communication, conflict resolution, empathy, understanding diversity, and challenging harmful labels and stereotypes.

We can keep digital literacy and bystander intervention top of mind when supporting youth. Encourage youth to take their digital realities seriously, understand both the positive and negative aspects of living within a technology focused world and be able to problem solve helpful solutions when technology is used to harm others. Encourage respectful bystander interventions, practice helping others, ensure youth understand the impacts of harmful behaviours and brainstorm intervention solutions and responses.


Bullying behaviour for adults often occurs within family groups or in the workplace. It can consist of gossiping and rumor spreading, exclusion and targeted cruel and hurtful comments.

We can challenge adult bullying behaviour by practicing conflict resolution or assertive statements that can be used to interrupt the harmful behaviours we encounter or are a part of. We can be aware of workplace policies and processes, connect in with Human Resources about reporting and resolution steps. From a prevention lens, we can build rapport with others, get to know the similarities and difference we have with others, intervene when we see harmful behaviours, find ways to treat everyone with respect and don’t participate in gossip.


We can see bullying is a relationship problem that requires relationship solutions at all stages. When we don’t encourage relationship solutions as a prevention tool or a response measure, our ability to build resiliency and respond to the impacts of bullying behaviour are less developed.

The impacts of bullying behaviour are wide and don’t just hurt in the moment, it can hurt for a very long time. Impacts can be felt by everyone involved – the person targeted, the person doing the bullying behaviour, the people who witnesses it, family, friends, our school, workplace and community.


Short-term impacts of bullying behaviour can include:

Feeling anxious, feeling depressed, low self-esteem, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, poor body image, headaches, body pains, missing school/work, isolation, loneliness, few social relationships, withdrawal from family/friends, lying.

Long-term impacts of bullying behaviour can include:

Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, mental health issues/poor mental health, poor physical health, increased used of drugs and/or alcohol, harmful coping mechanisms, self-harm, lack of social relationships, dropping out of school, lower level of employment.


Having empathy and understanding how others feel and how they are impacted by bullying behaviour can motivate us to step in and help others. We all have the power to help or hurt others.

Bullying behaviour doesn’t go away and hasn’t become less prevalent just because we have exhausted the conversation. Bullying behaviour requires real and healthy relationship solutions and until we can make relationship solutions and education consistent, we will always need a platform to talk about the issue. Be part of a relationship solution, not a contributor to a bullying reality.

If you or someone you know would like support in working through a bullying situation and its’ impacts, please reach out to trusted adults, human resources, school counsellors, online resources, or help lines.

Don’t excuse the behaviour as normal or “something everyone goes though.” Instead validate the feelings and impacts caused by harmful bullying experiences and seek to change the narrative. It doesn’t just have to be physically harmful, violent or a mental health issue to warrant support.

We are all worthy and deserving of having relationships, living, and interacting in spaces free from bullying behaviour.

Carlia Schwab is the Education and Community Awareness Manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Victims deserve support and a voice in true crime stories

For many of us, we are highly fascinated with true crime stories. From podcasts to Netflix series, the genre of true crime continues to grow and can spur many important conversations around social justice inequities. However, it can also resurface trauma for victims and their loved ones who are impacted by these crimes.

Such is the case in the recent Netflix series Dahmer – Monster – The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, the dramatization of real-life events that occurred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1978-1991, depicting the horrific and criminal acts of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The television series, directed by Ryan Murphy, debuted on Netflix in October 2022 and became the second most watched series on the streaming platform.

Crime television shows, both dramatic and documentary style, have been long established. Shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Crime Beat are staples in the true crime genre. What these shows have in common is their focus on impact of the crimes on the affected communities. They are created with care and detail to honour the victims’ stories.

Since Making a Murder in 2015, Netflix has pumped out many biographical crime dramas and documentaries focusing on serial killers over the last few years. The Sons of Sam: Decent into Darkness, Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes, and Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer are a few of what are streaming today. There is also the 2019 film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, featuring Zack Efron as serial killer Ted Bundy.

The concern with these types of series and films is not the genre itself, but the possibility of glorifying the serial killers.

Dahmer – Monster is a deep dive into the killer’s life and left many viewers with the impression that it was anything other than victim-centred, appearing to glorify Dahmer’s horrific criminal acts. The series failed to show the impacts of the crimes on the victims, their family members, loved ones and the community at large. It could be thought Dahmer – Monster focused on sensationalizing the victims and their family’s pain.

A question that should be asked by a viewer is not why the serial killer became this way, but how the crimes impacted society. Like in the case of Dahmer, there are many social justice inequities that can been highlighted, such as the impact of the crimes on the black and LGBTQ+ community along with racial and policing issues in Milwaukee.

The victims connected to all of these stories have loved ones, family members and friends who are still walking around today. Each show, book and retelling of the story asks them to relive their trauma and loss.

Another question that should be asked of the true crime genre is if this story needs to be told once again in such a dramatized fashion? Perhaps the answer can be “yes” if the series or story focuses on the impact of the crimes and has a victim-centred narrative.

The Central Alberta Support Centre (CASASC) is a place of support for victims of sexual assault and violence. Along with providing specialized police and court support, CASASC offers supportive reporting. In a nutshell this victim-centred program provides victims of historical sexual assault options on reporting in a supportive and comfortable atmosphere outside of the detachment.

As a collaborative program between the Red Deer City RCMP and CASASC, supportive reporting allows victims to meet with a plain-clothed RCMP member at a comfortable place and time to ask questions and receive information about the criminal justice system process, before deciding to report or not.

CASASC also offers a 24 hour help line for those looking for support with dealing with sexual violence impacts. Call or text 1-866-956-1099, or webchat at www.casasc.ca for confidential support, information and referrals.

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 January 10, 2023.

Consent – A short, yet impactful word

By Kailee Burkinshaw

Consent – A short, yet impactful word

What is one of the first things you think of when you hear the word “consent?”

Is it the term “no means no?” What about consent or permission forms from when you were in school? Or when it involves social movements such as the #MeToo hashtag? Consent can be all of these things and more.

Consent is a term that has always been around, but it may not have been as widely talked about as it appears to be now in our news, media, classrooms or virtual worlds. This is why it is important to understand consent and what it involves. Knowing more about consent creates a more informed, respectful and safe world, for reasons this blog post will discuss.

When someone is talking about consent, it begins as an agreement between two people or groups that they want to do something together. Everyone can say “yes” in the agreement, especially after they know what they are agreeing to do. Someone can say “no” in the agreement too.

Framing consent this way can put into perspective how we have all been practicing consent our entire lives.

Have you ever asked a friend to hang out with you? Asked a colleague if you can eat lunch with them? Asked someone out on a coffee date? Indicated to someone you liked that you wanted to hold their hand or kiss them?

If you have said “yes” to any of these questions, then you have been practicing consent.

Continuing to seek someone’s consent and have other people respect your choices when it comes to consent, is the cornerstone of creating healthy, respectful relationships in our lives.

The CASASC education team has regular conversations in our Central Alberta community about consent and healthy relationships. To learn more about these conversations and opportunities, you can reach out to the team at education@casasc.ca.

What is involved with consent?

Consent can start with a simple “yes” or “no” question. Consent can involve letting someone know all of their options when it comes to settings in the medical field, higher education or the workplace.

We have consent in our friendships, within our families and with our dating partners. From high fives, to hugs, and all the way up to and including all forms of sexual activity, we need to practice and be receptive to consent.

But how do we get consent? How do we know we are receiving the right signals for consent? And do we have to be crystal clear every time we ask for consent?

When asking for consent, there needs to be the following considerations:

  1. How well do you know this person? Is it your first time meeting them, or have you known them a long time? What sort of relationship do you have with them? Do you know what sort of activities they are comfortable with?
  2. How does the other person express a “yes” or “no” with their words or actions? Can you yourself recognize them?
  3. Does the person you are asking know all of what they are agreeing to?
  4. Is the person you are asking consent from in an alert, sober, conscious and sane state of mind to understand what you are asking of them?

When we reflect on our relationships with other people, and the sort of agreements we have with them because of our relationship to them, we can better understand how asking for and receiving consent will work with them.

Consent- Easy as FRIES and OYMY

Consent needs to be enthusiastic, specific and informed. It also needs to be reversible—someone can say “yes” but can say “no” later if they change their mind—and freely given. We do not force someone to say “yes.” Rearranging these words can give us the term FRIES, an easy way to remember the parts of consent.

Another way to remember consent is with the term “Only Yes Means Yes.” CASASC has adapted this term into a series of posters under the “Only Yes Means Yes (OYMY)” campaign. More information on the campaign can be found here: https://casasc.ca/only-yes-means-yes-when-it-comes-to-consent/. If you are interested in posters for your business or organization, you can reach out to CASASC’s EDU Team at education@casasc.ca.

Consent is an everyday practise and can be a way to honor and show respect and safety in our relationships and community.

Kailee Burkinshaw is a prevention educator with the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

The importance of prevention

By Bailey Martineau

The Importance of Prevention:

Welcome to prevention education. We’re so glad that you have found us! You may be wondering what ‘prevention education’ is and why is it important for you, your children, grandchildren, and all school children.  Well, you have come to the right place!  This blog will explore the importance of prevention, why we provide prevention education, and why it is needed in our schools.

If you are new to Central Alberta, CASASC has a dedicated education team that specializes in the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. You can find more information about our programs and/or book us to deliver our program to your organization at education@casasc.ca.

Now, on to explaining the importance of prevention.

As a former preschool teacher, I witnessed firsthand the impact of sexual abuse on a child. Children under the age of five do not have the developmental ability to discern when someone’s motives are insincere or when someone is lying.  So, if they feel uncomfortable with something that has happened to them, they typically will tell someone they trust.  These ‘disclosures may occur during, dramatic play, reading a book, or even during one-on-one time. Students usually came to me during free play time, when colouring, or just quietly reading books – and they would share what happened that is making them uncomfortable.  Oftentimes, nothing needed to be said as it was clear in the child’s demeanor when dropped off at school by their guardian.  As adults who know and understand the signs of abuse, we need to be the voice and advocate for children who don’t understand what is happening to them.

If you are fortunate enough to have a child trust you enough that they come to you and tell you something that happened to them, you should feel honoured; this means that you are a safe person for that child. No need to feel scared. That child chose you to help them! Having an understanding of prevention is so important so you know how you can do to help that child.

The signs of childhood sexual abuse are not always obvious and as a result, it is important to learn the signs and symptoms so that early action can be taken, thereby ending or preventing abuse.

Prevention is important to everyone – and the best prevention is education.  We make sure everyone is aware of the elements of body safety. Children need to understand what consent is and how to impose body boundaries that they are comfortable with.  Prevention education empowers everyone in positive ways.

Have you ever wondered about the steps involved in prevention education?  Following are some steps that we, as a community, can take.

  1. Act: Do something. As a community, we need to act. If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prevent childhood sexual abuse. We must counteract it with kindness, grace, practice, and most importantly, believing the child/youth if they come to talk to you about it. If you know – or even suspect – childhood sexual abuse, it’s your responsibility (and the law!) to report it immediately.
  2. Join Forces: Reach out to non-profits in your community who talk and teach about sexual abuse – churches, schools, libraries, and other civic groups – to get involved in prevention programs.
  3. Support the victim: Believe the victim. Report when necessary. Offer support, empathy, and kindness. Let them know they are not alone. Help to find resources to start the healing journey.
  4. Educate Yourself: Programs like ours help children, youth and adults understand body boundaries, consent, relationships, and safe or unsafe adults. We give them a voice and the tools to prevent sexual abuse.
  5. Speak up: Let’s give childhood sexual abuse a voice. Let’s stop it in its tracks. The more we talk about it, learn, and educate, the less likely abuse can happen. Prevention begins with each one of us!

Prevention strategies aim to stop violence before it occurs by addressing the way individuals, relationships, community, and societal factors impact interpersonal violence.

Given my past experiences, I am impassioned to ensure everyone is educated on the prevention of sexual abuse.  My hope is that, as a community, we can use these steps to recognize, act, and prevent sexual abuse in our community.

Why Prevention Education?

This is where we take social action through prevention education:

Prevention education builds confidence, critical thinking skills and helps prepare children and youth for potentially dangerous situations in the real world. We should teach children and youth assertive skills so they can respond appropriately and say “no!” when necessary.

Prevention education also requires that children and youth know what a safe adult is and where a safe adult is allowed within their body boundary.

Here is a question for you what makes a safe adult? How do children and youth know that a specific adult is safe to be around?  Are you, as the adult, able to respond to this question? Do you think your child or grandchild understands this? If not, it’s time to have a conversation about safe adults.

Another question to think about: Do you know what a body boundary is?

In our prevention program, we discuss and have related activities on body boundaries. What touches are allowed in each bubble? Our No Secrets program teaches that “no one should look at, no one should touch, and no one should take pictures of our private parts.” If this rule is broken, our prevention education teaches the skills of “no, go, tell” – say “no” loudly, go somewhere safe and tell a safe adult what happened.

We also teach that a doctor should be one of the only people that can look at or touch us in order to keep us healthy – but only with our permission and consent.

Research shows that elementary age children are not developmentally able to lie, so it’s important that if a child says someone has touched them inappropriately, adults believe them.

Our program also teaches the importance of learning the correct body part names as when children and youth are familiar and comfortable with body part names, they can tell a safe adult what happened and there is no misunderstanding.

We want children and youth to feel empowered when it comes to their bodies and boundaries. Our program, like any other prevention education program on sexual abuse, is not sex education; rather it is a prevention program to ensure children and youth are equipped with tools to stop an act before it happens and to educate about right from wrong and what is (or is not) appropriate.

Why is Prevention Education Needed in Schools?

Just like learning how to do a fire drill or a lock down, children need to learn and understand how to keep their bodies safe. Teaching these concepts in an age-appropriate classroom setting with peers fosters autonomy and self-esteem.

Bailey Martineau is a prevention educator at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Connecting with community prevents violence

By Kailee Mears

The central Alberta region has many amenities and attractions that draw people to settle in our communities. People from all walks of life choose to settle in our unique towns and neighbourhoods which offer a wide range of services, work, play and opportunities to connect.

Connecting with other people has benefits for our sense of belonging, self esteem, physical and mental health and even violence prevention.

When we feel we know our neighbours, we develop a sense of trust and friendship with them that allows us to better look after each other and our neighbourhoods.

When we connect with our close friends and family, we can better sense their appreciation and companionship, which increases our self-esteem and makes us feel better overall.

When we connect with others through sports, book clubs, walking groups, or working together to complete a neighbourhood task, we can make strides towards improving and maintaining our physical and mental health.

All these parts can contribute to a healthier sense of self and community. An additional bonus is that it can create safer communities that protect against various forms of violence and abuse.

When we are aware of our neighbours, friends and loved ones, we may be better able to spot situations or behaviours that seem “off” or unsafe.

Someone could be using their words or actions to put another person down or make that person feel afraid or controlled. Verbal put downs or social exclusion can make both adults and children feel small and isolated. Physical actions like pushing, slapping or harsh force can be used to punish a person or gain control over them.

Unwanted touching and not respecting a person’s “no” can break their consent and make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe in their relationships or friendships with others.

These behaviours can harm people and make them feel isolated from sources of support like family, neighbours and organizations. These behaviours can lead to bullying, dating violence or family abuse which have no place in our communities.

Connecting with others can create a stronger community that can lean on and look out for each other. We may be better able to recognize behaviours that lead to unsafe relationships.

We can offer our support to those who are impacted by these behaviours with a listening ear, affirming that we believe them and referring to professional support as needed. Saying “hi” to our neighbours, inviting them over for a barbeque, or spending time with those who mean the most to us can go a long way.

Together, we can create a culture free of violence, stronger neighbourhoods and enjoy a fun and safe summer.

CASASC offers a 24 hour help line for those dealing with sexual violence impacts in our community. Call or text 1-866-956-1099, or webchat at www.casasc.ca for confidential support, information and referrals.

Kailee Mears is a prevention educator at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate.

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.

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