December 16, 2010

Thanks to those who speak out…

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:00 pm by sacetalks

I’ve worked at SACE for 6 weeks now, and it’s been good times. I like doing presentations and I’m so impressed with how receptive the students are to the material. I’m learning a lot and I feel like I’m contributing. But there’s also an emotional side to this work. I knew that this would be the case, but at times I am caught off guard by the intensity of it. It’s particularly difficult when someone close to me discloses. For some, their experiences are in the past; they tell me their stories and this reminds me why the work we do at SACE is important. For others, they find themselves in an abusive situation and are working to get out. My first reaction is always anger at their abuser; then profound sadness that these women I love and care so much about have to endure such horrible treatment. Disclosure is often followed by gratitude; they tell me that it means a lot to them that I listen; that I am there to support them. But I’m not the one who deserves thanks– they are. Speaking out about abuse and assault is not easy; listening is the easy part. I cannot even imagine how much courage it takes to talk about this, and when I am the one who is listening, I feel honored. So I just want to say thanks, to the women (and men) who trust me enough to share their stories with me; and to all women and men who speak out about sexual assault and abuse and all the bullshit that comes with breaking the silence. Their voices are what make my work possible, and gives me meaning every time I walk into the office or stand in front of a classroom to speak with youth about sexual violence. You have my gratitude, forever and always.

By Lily Tsui


December 6, 2010

“Don’t be That guy”

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:26 pm by sacetalks

by Meagan Simon

As a newbie here at the center, I get excited over the little things – having an office to myself, getting to work with amazing people who care a lot about their work and extra lamps. So you can imagine how tickled I was when I got to accompany our Executive Director, Karen Smith, to the media launch of a new and innovative awareness campaign in Edmonton called, “Don’t be THAT Guy.” It would have been amazing to have been here months ago when all the planning and prep work went down, but at least I get to see the results.

The initiative for this campaign began when the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton joined forces with other community organizations, the Edmonton Police Service, and interested individuals in Edmonton and its surrounding area and formed a coalition called the Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE). According to Superintendent Danielle Campbell of the EPS Criminal Investigations Division, about half of the reported cases of sexual assault in Edmonton involve alcohol. Offenders of sexual assault often use alcohol to incapacitate the people they wish to assault. It is the most common rape drug.  In light of a shared concern for the high numbers of alcohol facilitated sexual assaults in Edmonton reported to the police, SAVE decided to combine their intellectual and compassionate might in an effort for the prevention of sexualized violence in Edmonton.

Last Monday, November 22 2010, SAVE launched their first major campaign. It involves posters with the message that sex without voluntary consent = sexual assault. One shows an intoxicated women being led to a car by a man with the tag line, “Just because you help her home… doesn’t mean you get to help yourself.” Another ad shows a passed out women on a couch with alcohol strewn around her and the words, “Just because she isn’t saying no… doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.” While SAVE hopes to reach a broad audience, the ads specifically target males aged 18 to 24 in the most appropriate setting I myself can fathom, the male washrooms of local bars. It is here that the most direct and simple message is used, “Just because she’s drunk, doesn’t mean she wants to f**k.”

A study in the UK recently found that 48% percent of their respondents, men aged 18 to 25, believed that sex with women too drunk to know what was going on is not rape. This finding supports what EPS have found in our community; the most common offenders of alcohol facilitated sexual assault in Edmonton are men between the ages of 18 to 24, who are usually known to the people they assault. These findings are appalling and reflect a disheartening truth in our communities – a great number of young men do not believe it is wrong to coerce sex from an intoxicated woman. While we can all balk at the implications of this and share our disdain of phrases like, “What, am I supposed to get her to sign a contract or something?” it seems more prudent to address our concerns as SAVE did. They took it as an educational opportunity.

Like I said before, I think SAVE did a great job targeting their core audience by placing the ads in male washrooms of 26 Edmonton bars. These washrooms have two main advantages as a setting for the campaign. One, they are “social spaces” whose main patrons are the target audience of the ads. What’s more, they are areas where alcohol facilitated sexual assaults may likely occur or begin, where young men have easy access to alcohol and people to potentially sexually assault. Posters will also hang in the University of Alberta and Corona LRT stations, and will be printed in campus papers and independent news magazines.

The ads aren’t just there to shame men into submission. They definitely make an accusation about men aged 18 to 24 as potential offenders, suggesting that they are capable of sexually assaulting and need to stop themselves. They also challenge the notion that it is up to the survivors of sexual assault to prevent it from happening. To say that people are potential offenders doesn’t mean that everyone who sexually assaults is marked by a predisposition or personality trait that makes them do it. We don’t want to mark these men as “bad people.” No, we just want statistically verified behaviors and beliefs to stop. We want people to know sexual assault is wrong and to stop doing it. It is very likely that some people, though not all, will respond to the posters with resistant and defensive tactics, either making excuses for their own behavior, deflecting blame onto the survivors of sexual assault or claiming innocence of the whole thing. “You man haters.” Don’t be that guy. Don’y be that guy who does not take responsibility. Don’t be that guy who does not make sure his partner is consenting. Don’t be that guy who sexually assaults a girl too drunk to consent to sex. Don’t be that guy who uses alcohol as a tool to sexually assault. Don’t be that guy who believes it is not rape.