Tag Archive for: Prevention

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.

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.

CASASC launches Only Yes Means Yes campaign


CASASC is excited to soft launch the Only Yes Means Yes Campaign on July 19. Over the past few months the education, community relations and communications teams have collaborated to create an on-going poster and awareness campaign around positive consent conversations.

The Only Yes Means Yes campaign challenges our consent conversations by reinforcing that our bodies are always conveying a lack of consent (always saying ‘no’) and that consent can only happen when a person actively and consciously says “yes” and gives/shows their consent.

Through three simple, relatable posters, CASASC is showing central Albertans what consent can sound and look like. Prompting adults to ask the question “Did I get a yes?” and showing what that “yes” can be. These posters are geared for adult audiences who visit public spaces like bars, restaurants, clinics, services agencies and many more. We will be asking workplaces to place posters in their staff rooms, and places where clients/customers gather like bathrooms, tables, bulleting boards and gathering spaces in our communities.

We have also developed a FAQ for the campaign that can be used to promote the campaign in the communities we serve.

Additionally, over the summer months, the education team will be visiting many of our central Alberta communities to have in-person conversations with organization and business to bring awareness of all our services and to share the campaign and posters.

Please reach out the education team (education@casasc.ca) if you have any questions about the concept behind Only Yes Means Yes or the target audience and use of the campaign.

Stay tuned for the official launch of Only Yes Means Yes in the fall.

CASASC awarded with Inspiration Award


The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) is the recipient of a provincial award recognizing leadership in sexual violence prevention.

CASASC team members attended the Inspiration Awards ceremony for Edmonton, central and northern Alberta at Government House in Edmonton on April 4.

A total of nine Inspiration Awards were presented by the Ministry of Community and Social Services to individuals and groups who demonstrated excellence in the areas of public education on healthy relationships, working across sectors to address violence and partnering with Alberta’s diverse communities.

The awards were presented by Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services and Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr was also in attendance.

CASASC received its’ group leadership award for offering innovative and comprehensive programs and services.

“They educate, support and empower individuals, families and communities regarding all aspects of sexual abuse and sexual assault,” said Ken Dropko, Executive Director of Family and Community Services in the Ministry of Community and Social Services during the ceremony. “They have created quality education programs, Culture of Respect principles with the IRespect campaign, and the Family Intervention Program. Other services include their one-on-one, group, pet and play therapy, the 24 Hour Crisis Line for Web/Text/Phone and the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).”

CASASC volunteer, educator and SART member Shalea Harder-Mah also received an Inspiration Award for leadership in sexual violence prevention – emerging excellence.

Harder-Mah was recognized for her passion in helping other affected by sexual violence.

“Shalea started the first Red Deer College Sexual Assault and Abuse Awareness Group and has managed the group ever since,” said Dropko. “In 2016, the group received special recognition from the Student’s Association of Red Deer College for their work…Shalea volunteers for several other crime prevention organizations and believes in building healthy and positive relationships.”

Other award recipients on April 4 included the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre, the Cold Lake High School’s Best Buddies program and Fossey, the Zebra Child Protection Centre service dog.

“Albertans have always stood up for their neighbours and worked together to support those in need,” said Sabir. “The Inspiration Awards recognize community leaders who set an extraordinary example to support those affected by violence and abuse. These awards are a way our government can say thank you for their efforts to make life better for all Albertans.”