The government is proclaiming May as Sexual Violence Awareness Month and is taking action to challenge attitudes, promote a culture of consent and raise awareness about sexual violence in Alberta.
To start the month, the province is launching a new Commitment to End Sexual Violence. Developed through extensive consultation with dozens of front line providers, advocates and survivors, the commitment brings ten government ministries and community organizations together to deliver a coordinated, province wide response to address sexual violence in Alberta.
“Every Albertan deserves to live free from sexual harassment and assault. Sexualized violence is a crime of power and control, and governments have a duty to lead, to offer hope and healing to survivors, to make workplaces and campuses safe and to tackle the inequality at the root of this violence that most impacts women and girls.”
~Rachel Notley, Premier
The commitment has three pillars:
- Shift the culture towards believing survivors, challenging harmful myths and building a culture of consent
- Improve the way Alberta’s social, health, justice and education systems respond to sexual violence
- Support individuals by funding frontline services for survivors and delivering education and prevention programs
“I never thought I would see this day. Raising awareness about sexual violence not only helps bring these crimes out of the shadows, it’s clear with this commitment today that, for the first time, the priorities of government reflect me and the needs of survivors across this province.”
~Carlynn McAneeley, survivor of sexual violence
During May, the province will announce initiatives to support the commitment and build on actions taken to address and prevent sexual harassment and assault.
Since 2015 government has invested close to $52 million to support a range of programs and services to prevent sexual violence and support survivors in communities across Alberta, including:
- Provided more supports for survivors of sexual violence with a historic $8.1 million investment to increase access to counselling and cut wait times, add police and court support and provide crisis help in more communities.
- A $1.2 million grant over three years at the Zebra Child Protection Centre for mental health support and counselling services for survivors of sexual and physical child abuse.
- Increased funding by $25 million to help Family and Community Support Services address sexual violence, family violence, gender inequality and to promote healthy relationships.
- Funded the successful #IBelieveYou campaign to promote a cultural shift toward supporting survivors and breaking the silence around sexual violence.
- Boosted funding for women’s shelters by $15 million to help ensure no woman fleeing violence is turned away.
- Increased access to the legal system for survivors by removing the time limit for to bring forward civil claims.
- Made it easier for survivors to get out of dangerous situations by allowing them to break residential leases without financial penalty.
- Provided $80,000 grant from Status of Women to stage a play about consent in high schools to educate teens about gender equality and healthy relationships.
“We are pleased to be a partner in the government’s commitment to prevent sexual violence and provide better support to those who are affected. Sexual violence is a problem that affects all communities in our province and will require a united effort by government, community organizations and individuals to eliminate.”
~Debra Tomlinson, chief executive director, Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services
Commitment to End Sexual Violence:
“Every Albertan has the right to live free from violence. Perpetrators of sexual violence violate that right.
“The Government of Alberta does not tolerate these abuses of power and control. Though anyone can experience sexual violence, we recognize it impacts women and girls most. We stand firmly with survivors, advocates and community agencies to stop sexual violence in all its forms.
“We commit to supporting survivors, improving our response, and shifting to a culture of consent by advancing gender equality. We will work until all survivors are believed and supported, and this violence is eradicated from our communities.”
- Sexual violence is the most under-reported crime in Canada. Ninety-five per cent of survivors do not report their assaults to police.
- Sexual violence most often affects women and girls. Eighty-seven per cent of survivors are women and 94 per cent of perpetrators are men.
- In 2014, 83,000 Albertans reported sexual assaults.
- Sexual violence is defined as a sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. It can involve physical or non-physical contact, affect all ages and genders, and the person committing the act might be known or be a stranger.