May is Sexual Violence Awareness Month.
According to RCMP, there have been 33 incidents of sexual violence, assault and exploitation reported and responded to by the Strathcona County Detachment in 2022 so far. This statistic excludes offences such as online offences, voyeurism, bestiality, etc.
“As a police officer, I do encourage anybody to come forward to report because without a report there is no way for us to end this type of violence in the beginning. We are dedicated to wanting to stop these perpetrators because unless they are caught and unless they are convicted, they are just going to re-offend,” said Corporal Courtney McCarron, sexual assault review coordinator for the Alberta RCMP.
Saffron Centre is a non-profit organization that aims to support and empower victims of sexual assault in Strathcona County. Since the early 2000s, their work has expanded to include nine counselling rooms and a support dog named Yukon.
So far in 2022, Saffron Centre has seen 232 clients and provided 1,445 sessions.
“This year is the first school year we’ve actually been in every school in Strathcona County,” said Kiara Warkentin, director of justice, research and outreach at the Saffron Centre.
Their educational programs provide workshops to students and parents that cover appropriate topics such as consent, harassment, and how to be supportive when someone discloses sexual assault to you.
“We are the only community that we are aware of that has a comprehensive violence, trauma and suicide prevention protocol,” explained Warkentin
Strathcona County has a lot of local events to raise awareness on this issue. One is a running event on June 11 - 12 called Surviorfest. Participants of Surviorfest can join virtually or in person at the Strathcona Athletic Park. This year, the event has introduced live streaming and race commentators to talk about athletes, sponsors and sexual assault education.
“This year, we are back and more determined than ever to have the event live,” said Laura Townsend, race director of Surviorfest.
So far, Surviorfest has doubled its registration numbers from its last in-person event. All ages are welcome to come out but participants under the age of 16 are asked to have an adult present to give them permission to race.
“It puts a positive spin on something that is really hard to talk about in our community,” noted Townsend.
Fundraising from Surviorfest is all designated for the educational programming presented by Saffron Centre in Strathcona County schools.
“I felt, as a survivor, if [bringing in educational programs] had happened in my school, what happened to me might not have happened,” added Townsend.
Saffron Centre is putting on a 5-kilometre running/walking consent event at Broadmoor Lake Park. On Sunday (May 15), people can come out and learn about the services Saffron Centre offers and also meet Yukon, the support dog.
Saffron Centre's website offers a live chat feature operated by Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse and the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, in partnership with the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.
“It’s never the person's fault. It’s always the perpetrator's fault. So truly believe and support. Don’t force the hand into anything but, let them know that you’re there,” recommended McCarron.
The Alberta One-Line is a province-wide central platform for sexual assault support services. The toll-free number is 1-866-403-8000 and it runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with 170+ languages.