In 2018, Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir presented Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre representatives Alma Garbe and Sarah Maetche with an Inspiration Award. (Contributed photo)

Campaign against sexual assault continues

Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre iRespect campaign

Red Deer’s steady increase in sexual assaults has left the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre wondering what else can be done.

“It is very sad. I’m very frustrated. It’s not only here, it’s everywhere,” said Patricia Arango, executive director of the centre.

“It’s not stopping.”

Red Deer RCMP crime statistics for 2018 show the number of sexual assaults climbed to 157, a 20 per cent increase from the 131 reported in 2017.

Sexual assaults increased 27 per cent in 2017 from 103 assaults reported in 2016, which was unusually low. A total of 124 assaults were reported in 2015.

Related: Red Deer crime stats show sexual assaults up, but total property, persons crimes down

Suspect in sexual assaults scaring women since October

Arango said the increase in 2018 did not surprise her, but she does not know why. Some people say the #MeToo movement has encouraged people who were sexually assaulted in the past to come forward, but that doesn’t explain the number of recent cases involving children.

The centre saw 504 new clients in 2018, a 41 per cent increase from 356 in 2017.

Last year’s new clients included 195 children under the age of 18. Last month, there were 62 new clients, including 22 children.

She said society is sending the wrong message, that sexual assault is a normal part of everyday life.

To combat that message, the centre has been been running its iRespect campaign for three years to encourage respect for others and respect for yourself.

“We are talking about a culture of respect. We are saying that it’s not OK and it’s not part of our culture. We’re still talking about it and hoping that one day people get it.”

Arango said the centre is the only local organization focusing on prevention, but it’s been difficult to access funding to further prevention efforts.

The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre works with victims of all ages and provides crisis and short-term counselling to victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault and their families.

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