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This Is What I Was Wearing When It Happened

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In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) and two third-year BScN students of RDC partnered together for This is What I Was Wearing When It Happened, a reflection event.

The thought provoking exhibit was held on March 8 at the Forum in Red Deer College.

The purpose of this reflection event was to bring awareness to the issue of victim blaming and the stigma surrounding women’s clothing as the reason why they were sexually assaulted.

The exhibit featured five live mannequins wearing various types of clothing victims were wearing at the time they were assaulted. This was meant to be a real life representation, a visual way to bring awareness around the still existing stigma.

This was the second year for the reflection event on International Women’s Day. Last year’s event at Parkland Mall featured 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.

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Alberta Government announces more funding for sexual assault support centres

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The Alberta Government is expanding front-line services across the province with a $8.1 million investment in the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS), to ensure survivors who take the brave step to come forward have the supports they need.

This funding announcement was made on March 7 in Edmonton.

As part of the AASAS membership, the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre will be one of the centres receiving increased funding.

Across the province, sexual assault centres and law enforcement are reporting increased demand for counselling services. The government-funded AASAS #IBelieveYou campaign against the backdrop of the global #MeToo movement, are starting to help survivors feel safe about reaching out for help.

“Courageous women in Alberta and around the world are finally breaking their silence and sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment,” said Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean. “We hear them and we stand with them. Today, we are taking action – funding more counselling and helping people navigate the court and police systems so all survivors are supported on their healing journey.”

AASAS will use the money for ongoing funding of front-line services, including expanding crisis response and greater use of specialized police and court support workers. The funding is from Community and Social Services, Health, and Justice and Solicitor General.
“As a government, we owe it to survivors to take every step necessary to ensure they have the supports they need when they come forward,” said Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir. “This funding continues our government’s commitment to provide supports for survivors as well as tools for sexual assault prevention and education.”
The funding is additional to the almost $44 million invested since 2015 to support a wide range of programs and services to prevent sexual violence and support survivors in communities across Alberta.
“These funds will have a tremendous impact on the lives of survivors,” said AASAS CEO Deb Tomlinson. “They will not only address the 53 per cent increase in new counselling clients and unprecedented wait lists our member agencies faced, but will allow us to provide specialized services to rural areas of Alberta.”
AASAS will also hire more staff in seven under-served communities so survivors in those regions get the support they need close to home.
Sexual violence refers to any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. Government works across ten ministries with agencies and community organizations across the province to prevent sexual violence, support survivors and ensure the social, justice, health and educational systems respond to survivors.

Funding details:

  • $6.225 million from Community and Social Services (CSS), for increased counselling, outreach and education services, and to develop a Collaborative Community Response Model targeting seven underserved regions in the province:
    • North West – High Level, High Prairie, Peavine, Rainbow Lake, Fort Vermillion;
    • North East – Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, Janvier;
    • North Central – Wabasca, Slave Lake, Athabasca;
    • Central West – Hinton, Jasper, Edson;
    • Central East – Bonnyville, Cold Lake, St. Paul, Lac La Biche;
    • Bow Valley – Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise; and
    • South West – Lethbridge, Cardston, Taber, Pincher Creek
  • $750,000 from Health for specialized counselling and expanded services.
  • $1.09 million from Justice and Solicitor General to enhance police and court support services.

Opinion: No grey area when it comes to sexual assault

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BY SARAH MAETCHE

Sexual misconduct.

There, I said it. This is a term we are hearing a lot lately, in the media, around the coffee table, even in the House of Commons.

But, what does it actually mean?

Here are a few examples of some of the headlines sweeping our news stream today on this topic: “Zero tolerance on sexual misconduct for UCP MLAs, Jason Kenney says,” “Complaints against two former RCMP doctors accused of sexual misconduct hit 80,” and “Trudeau says zero tolerance on misconduct toward women applies to him as well.”

How about a definition?

Elaine Craig, of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, words it as this: “Sexual misconduct is a lay term, sometimes used in institutional policies or by professional bodies. It covers an array of problematic sexual behaviours including sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual abuse. Two of these terms have specific (and different) legal meanings: Sexual assault has a specific meaning in the criminal law context, unlike sexual misconduct, which may cover both criminal and non-criminal conduct.”

The term sexual misconduct is broad. It does not have legal implications attached to it. The meaning of it is far from clear and is deeply generalized. Yet, here again we have a federal MP and provincial MPP both being accused of sexual misconduct.

Patrick Brown, an Ontario MPP received allegations of sexual misconduct last week. He is accused of sexual misconduct with two teenage girls (one being a high school student and the other a university student). Brown states the accusations are false and formal charges have yet to be laid.

Then there is Kent Hehr, a MP who has been accused of sexual misconduct for allegedly making sexually inappropriate comments to women during his time as a Calgary MLA. Last week he resigned from the Liberal cabinet pending an investigation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement said the government takes allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously: “we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do.”

This does not clear up the confusion surrounding this term.

It appears over the past few months and with the groundswell of survivors coming forward to share their stories, the media has been using sexual misconduct as a broad-sweeping term to label anyone who is accused of a nonconsensual or unwelcome sexual act or statement.

As a sexual assault service provider and advocate, I would prefer we eliminate this grey area and often confusing terminology and call it what it is – sexual assault or sexual harassment. Plain and simple.

The media should not continue to minimize or downplay these very serious allegations by using a broad, nonsensical term.

We should be progressing, with our language and thoughts, and like the #Metoo and #IBelieveYou movements, we support survivors and believe what they are saying. There is no grey area in sexual assault.