From left, Lauren Nielsen, Holly Hildt, Vanessa Wilson and Patricia Arango all took part running an information booth at Red Deer College on Nov. 29th with the goal of changing the conversation around sexual assault and violence. Mark Weber/Red Deer Express

Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre partners with RDC to change the conversation

Organizers say it’s time to change the conversation around sexual violence

The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) teamed up with the Students’ Association of Red Deer College and third-year nursing students to host ‘Changing the Conversation’ – a consent and sexual violence prevention information booth.

The representatives were onhand through the day on Thursday to chat with students about creating awareness about sexual violence, victim blaming and consent, said Patricia Arango, executive director of the CASASC.

Arango said that typically, the conversation is geared to victims but she’d like to see a wider conversation that includes potential perpetrators of sexual violence.

Normally, potential victims are told a number of rules they should adhere to, including not to dress a certain way, to protect their drinks when they are in a club, to not walk alone, etc.

“It’s always about the victim’s responsibility to be safe,” she said. “We are taking a risk today – talking to the perpetrators to say, leave us alone. We want the freedom to be able to walk down a street without fear,” she said, referring to the reported incident of sexual assault that took place in downtown Red Deer this week in broad daylight.

“I’m glad she came forward and said something, and put it in the media and told the police,” she said, adding that it helps others to come forward to tell of their own incidents of sexual abuse or assault. “It’s shocking and sad,” she said, adding how extra important it is to speak up in each and every case.

Arango said that ultimately, its about building the concept of respect.

That would help to eliminate such pervasive issues such as victim blaming and the stigma still connected to incidents of sexual assault.

This is the third year for the health promotion and prevention project between the three organizers.

Last year’s two events were titled ‘Are you SEXcessful?,’ an awareness and guidance event about positive sexual health and ‘This is What I Was Wearing When It Happened’, a reflection event bringing awareness around victim blaming and the stigma surrounding women’s clothing as the reason why they were sexually assaulted, noted a release.

As Arango pointed out, this year, CASASC is focusing on respect.

“It’s about accountability, it’s about respect, it’s about responsibility,” she said. “We need to work together.”

Through the #iRespect campaign, CASASC has also invited everyone to commit to living a life of respect, within their community, workplace and home.

“By promoting a culture of respect for others, you promote respect for yourself which is the most important factor.”

Ultimately, it’s about not just keeping the conversation going and changing it, but building its scope as well, she said.

“Let’s say something, find ways to work together and be free again,” she said.

Meanwhile, there is certainly more awareness these days thanks to the #MeToo movement for example, but Arango said she’s of course concerned as well about those who cannot speak up for themselves – children who are victims of sexual abuse.

For more information, check out www.casasc.ca or call the 24-hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 403-340-1124.

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