WARNING: This article contains content that some readers may find upsetting. Potential triggers are: Sexual Assault.
The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) is a non-profit organization that supports children, youth and adults who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. SACE also educates the public about sexual violence.
Mary Jane James, the CEO of SACE, has been hoping to educate the public at a much younger age than before.
“We are really pushing at our agency towards high school students but I actually believe that that’s too late to get this message across. So we’ve just started a program that we’re implementing for junior high boys called ‘Wise Guys’,” said James
“We got a really significant grant from The Status of Women Canada to promote this program. It’s not a mandatory part of the curriculum, but we would identify schools that would be more at risk and really try to get boys involved in the conversation.”
While drinking or using cannabis is considered a normal, enjoyable part of adulthood, students must realize the potential impact it can have.
“Do you understand that having any sort of sexual relationship with someone who is impaired under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime? What students need to know is that if there’s even an inkling that someone is not able to consent because they, or both of them, are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, then don’t,” said James.
The stigma of sexual assault is often applied to the victim, rather than the perpetrator. Only an estimated five per-cent of victims report to the police. While the victim may often feel ashamed, fearful or guilty, they are not to blame.
“The bottom line is, no amount of alcohol, or what you wore or didn’t wear, or whether you walked alone to your car, or whether you were kissing that person on the dance floor, did that give someone consent to having sexual contact with you,” said James.
“Just because you were flirting on the dance floor doesn’t mean that you have an invitation to sexually assault someone.”
Due to the fact that victims often do not come forward about assaults, facilities that host events may not be aware that they have ever happened. NAIT is no exception.
“We have a big problem [in Edmonton]. We are ranked as having the highest number of reported sexual assaults in all of Canada per capita. We can’t sit in our little ivory towers and pretend that it doesn’t happen at NAIT or U of A,” said James.
“You as a school need to be ensuring that there are supports in place, making sure that people have a place to go, where they will not be judged and that they will be assisted in moving forward in any way they want to.”
Sexual Assault has lasting effects that echo throughout the lives of the victims. Fortunately, SACE is set up to provide all of the available resources in the city, and has a team of talented volunteers.
“We have 45 staff members who in their various capacities do their things to get the message out there. The volunteers are highly trained, so you’re never going to get someone who doesn’t have the information to help,” said James.
SACE uses a state-of-the-art “ping identification system” that provides employees and volunteers the exact location in the city where people call from, which allows them to offer the closest, safest option to receive help.
This same system is also able to be used all across Canada, so if someone in Yellowknife calls SACE, the employees and volunteers are able to locate regional resources for the caller.
While SACE is non-profit, and James understands that students have little money to donate, there are other ways to support SACE, through volunteering and spreading awareness.
“Your messaging and support of us, in terms of getting that info to the students is really the best,” said James.
To learn more or donate, visit sace.ca. To support a survivor of sexual assault or abuse, there are multiple links on the site, and also a support number, which is 780-423-4102. Help is out there and it is readily available.