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Edmonton is too “sexy"

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  • Edmonton is too “sexy"

    Edmonton is too "sexy"

    Edmonton the “Sexual Assault Capital of Canada,” is quite different from our welcome to Edmonton “City of Champions” catch phrase but this beautiful city’s dirty little shame took this title in 1975. With the highest sexual assault rate per capita, something had to happen.

    A year later, the sexual assault centre of Edmonton (SACE) began. Its mission statement says it all, the centre exists “to empower individuals affected by sexual abuse and assault, and to empower communities to take action against sexual violence.” Fast-forward 31 years—sadly the centre remains, still fuelled by the love of dedicated volunteers and by the fact that Edmonton remains among the top-ten for sexual assaults in Canada. Societal stigmas still surround sexual violence making this the most under-reported of all crimes and even sadder the most under-supported.

    During 2007 Edmonton budget meetings city council charged Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) with making our city look sexy to outsiders. For survivors of sexual violence Edmonton is already too sexy—bad sexy. We have all heard that sex sells, so advertisers and now the City of Edmonton are constantly trying to “sex” things up…but everyone shies away from “bad” sex.

    Instead of talking about “bad” sex, we blame the survivor (you are only a victim immediately after the crime). This mentality is still prevalent in our society and in the fabric of Edmonton life, but sexual violence, sexual assault is not really about sex. It is about violence and control, assault with a sexual component—“bad” sex.

    Statistics estimate that one in every four women and one in every eight men will experience sexual violence at some point in their life.

    • According to Statistics Canada, only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police —the other 94% remain the silent (hurting) majority (Statistics Canada, 1993).

    • It is estimated that over 80% of survivors who are sexually assaulted do not report due to feelings of shame, fear and humiliation or fear of loss of employment/partner or fear of revictimization through the criminal trial process (Fassel, 1994).

    • 21% of students at the University of Alberta reported at least one unwanted sexual experience at some point in their life up until now (Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experience Among University of Alberta Students by LoVerso, 2001).

    • 83% of disabled women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Federal Study of Disabled Canadians, 2003).

    • 39% of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual assault since the age of 16 (Statistics Canada, 1993).

    • 60% of survivors are victimized again (Statistics Canada, 1993).

    I could give you more statistics and even definitions but these do not recognize the personal devastation and the many ways in which sexual violence occurs. Cold facts and scientific explanations do not recognize the long-term emotional damage, the shame, the pain and the constant fear of survivors. Descriptions and data do not recognize that people are part of these horrible crimes.

    As one of those statistics, I can tell you that the “sexual” aspect of my assault is not what hurt me, the cruel violence on my body and my psyche is what devastated me. The horror that haunts me still is having my innocence and trust in people so brutally taken away. I attach my name to this article for authority; to take it from fiction to non-fiction. You can no longer say “it is not my business” or “I do not know anyone affected by sexual violence.”

    You would think that Edmonton businesses would be interested in supporting survivors of sexual violence, even if only to make them look good as a business. Sadly, as one of those Edmontonians I can attest that support is one of the largest challenges survivors and their supporters face. Edmonton businesses need to realize that helping support survivors helps their community, employees and families. If Edmonton businesses do not begin to realize that this epidemic must stop and be instrumental in working towards a solution, they are technically becoming part of the problem.

    Sexual violence is not an easy topic to talk about. It is an ugly horrifying issue. Most people want to think that sexual violence is somebody else's problem, but it is not. It is everybody's business. Survivors of sexual violence are boys and girls, women and men, young and old. They are our families, our neighbors —they are people we meet everyday in our communities. No one would argue that sexual violence is horrible. Nevertheless, unless we talk about it—unless we confront it directly —there will never be a chance of encouraging people who are survivors to come forward for assistance —of preventing it from happening in the first place. Moreover, if survivors do not talk about it —if they do not come forward for help, we have no way of holding offenders accountable and this puts the safety and integrity of our communities at risk.

    How can you make sexual violence your business? What can you do to help? Support the prosecution of offenders to the fullest extent. Learn about the nature and extent of the issue of sexual violence. Challenge offensive behavior such as sexist language, bragging about sexual conquests or negative comments about an individual's gender. Learn what “consent” is and is not. Talk about and discuss the issue of sexual violence. Be open to hearing about the topic of sexual violence and about other people's experiences of sexual violence. Tell survivors that there is help (and hope) available. You can make a difference. Talk about it. It is your business.

    Edmonton still displays a need for knowledge about sexual violence and I believe that a step toward finding an end to sexual violence starts with ending the silence. Take this article for example, just by writing this I am telling you the reader about this problem and I am breaking the silence. Become part of breaking the silence.

    As I have illustrated sexual violence does not discriminate—it affects people of all genders, races, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. It is tragically very common. As a successful and innovative city, Edmonton is responsible for every sexual violence survivor. Sexual violence can, will or has happened to someone you know. A spouse, a sibling, a parent, a relative, a co-worker, your child or perhaps even to yourself.

    The only way to stop sexual violence and to help those affected by it is through education, awareness and genuine care. The lost dreams and opportunities of survivors of sexual violence have enormous economic impact and long-lasting social impact.

    Now that you know the ways in which our city is hurting and now that you understand that sexual violence is a humanist issue, I hope that you realize that it is something we all as citizens of Edmonton need to take responsibility for. We need to help those whose lives have been shattered by sexual violence and we need to be proactive —we need to stop sexual violence.

    By Debra Ward
    SACE Volunteer of the Year

    Resources in Greater Edmonton

    Edmonton Police Services (EPS): Emergency: 911| Non-Emergency Calls: (780) 423-4567 | TELUS Mobility: #377 | Rogers: *377 | TTY: (780) 425-1231| Switchboard: (780) 421-3333.

    Edmonton Police Victim Service Unit (VSU), 9620 103A Avenue (780) 421-2217 or Alberta Police Based Victim Services Association's (APBVSA) website at www.apbvsa.com.

    Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) offers a 24 Hour Crisis Line (423-4121) that provides support, referrals and information to individuals affected by sexual violence. Public education, diversity outreach and a war rape (compassionate witness) program are also services provided by SACE.

    Sexual Assault Response Team of Edmonton (SARTE) is a group of registered nurses and doctors who have special training in caring for patients who have been sexually assaulted. This is a 24 hour service offered through the emergency rooms of Capital Health Region hospitals. The team is activated when a victim informs the emergency room staff that they have been assaulted. Please note that SARTE services are only available through Capital Health Region hospitals. SARTE offers people (14 years and older) who have been sexually assaulted compassionate, confidential and complete medical care without judgment.

    Sexual Assault Centre (U of A), 2-705 Students' Union Building (SUB) 492-9771. The University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre, as part of University Student Services, provides a safe place on campus where unconditional support, confidentiality, respect and advocacy are available for those affected by sexual assault. The U of A Sexual Assault Centre strives for a campus community free of sexual violence.

    The Support Network is a safe place to call. 211 or (780) 482-0198 when life hurts. Help lines are free, anonymous, confidential and available every hour, every day.

    Edmonton’s Zebra Child Protection Centre, the first centre of its kind in Canada, enables our community to respond to child abuse with a professional, compassionate and highly integrated program of healing and justice. Zebra gives all of us an opportunity to lend strength to abused children and create an exemplary model for compassion and justice in contending with child abuse.Contact Info: P: (780) 421-2016 or www.zebracentre.ca.

    Sexual Violence Stupid Top-ten List

    I compiled a top-ten list of myths, stupid things and stupid questions people said to me after my disclosure. This will give you an example of why the public needs to be educated and why awareness urgently still needs to happen.

    1. Were they native? Uh, no—they were not even human and what difference would that make.

    2. At least they did not take anything. That is right, I lost my dignity, my spirit and my sense of the future but at least they did not take anything “valuable.”

    3. Did it hurt? Why don’t you try having sex with sandpaper between your legs and then ask me that question.

    4. You do not look any different… Um, am I supposed to get a tattoo proclaiming me a victim? There are scars on my soul that are indelible.

    5. Why would you believe them when they threatened you if you contacted police? Yeah, these were “people” I should trust. They knew where I worked and had only forced horrible depravities upon me…no reason I would think they were capable of anything bad. Nonetheless, I did eventually report to the police. My police file remains open. Never apprehended my assailants are still unknown and unpunished.

    6. What were you wearing; don’t you think that contributed to your attack? Certainly. It was after all almost dusk and the drab trench coat that I was wearing did show off my cast— sexy.

    7. What did you do to provoke the attack? Excuse me? I was leaving work, had a cast on my leg and was an easy target that is it. I was not special; I was simply there and was vulnerable.

    8. Well at least “that” will never happen to you again. Being assaulted once in no way protects me going into the future. Indeed 60% of survivors are victimized again and yet another statistic I lay claim to.

    9. Am I sure I did not consent. Good one, after almost 16 (at that time) years of monogamous marriage one night as I was leaving work I saw some rough looking men and thought—nope— that one does not even warrant a response.

    10. You have to take responsibility. For what??? Being female—sexual assault happens to men as well. My age? Babies and senior citizens are targets too. My appearance. Yeah, my drab trench coat and that grey cast was sooo much of a turn on and nuns who are assaulted—damn their sexy habits. Perpetrators are the only ones who must take responsibility. They choose to assault. It was late at night and you were alone. It was just turning dark on an early fall evening and I was simply leaving work. I did not deserve what happened to me—no survivors do.
    Why do people still ask (accuse) a survivor of sexual violence what they did to deserve the crime but not a victim of a mugging?


    End the silence on sexual violence — end sexual violence.

    By Debra Ward
    Professional Writer and Proud Survivor
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