Victims of sexual assault are speaking up whether they live in Hollywood or Red Deer.
Alex Sainsbury, 24, of Red Deer, said she joined the #MeToo campaign to support friends and to let them know they’re not alone.
She said cat calls, vulgar language on the streets, and groping have shocked her in the past and she didn’t know how to respond.
“Those types of situations, you kind of freeze. It’s not until later you process what you should have done,” Sainsbury said on Thursday.
She said she never talked about her experiences before.
“What I was really worried about was people asking why didn’t you do this, or why didn’t you say something. But in that moment you feel so helpless almost.”
She recalled the first incident happened when she was 12 years old near the downtown Red Deer Public Library.
“It was totally random. I was walking down the street with my family and these guys pulled up in a car and started shouting these really vulgar things at us. I didn’t really understand what was going on.”
She said public cat calling became more frequent as she grew up, and once she had a blind date who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He groped her and stuck his tongue down her throat before she made an excuse and quickly left.
Six months ago a man grabbed at her while she was dancing at a Red Deer club.
“It’s the last time I went out to the bar actually. Those two incidents make me hesitant to go out now.”
Sainsbury said her experiences aren’t as bad as what others have lived through. But that blind date could have led to rape.
“I was assaulted. It doesn’t matter how small it is. It happened. I should have gone and told somebody.”
She said after talking to her parents since joining the #MeToo conversation she realized she has people to listen and support her. She wants her friends who have come forward or not, to know that she is there for them.
Some people are downplaying the campaign and say victims are just trying to get attention, and they are right, she said.
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to bring attention to something that is taboo and not really spoken about. It’s not just for celebrities. It’s for regular people like you and me. It happens a lot more frequently,” Sainsbury said.
In Red Deer the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre has been running its #iRespect campaign for over two years to encourage respect for others and respect for yourself.
CASASC executive director Patricia Arango said more people are contacting the centre, but she doesn’t know if it’s directly connected to campaigns like #MeToo and the provincial campaign #IBelieveYou.
“I would say last week we saw more texting and more calling and more people talking in the web chat,” Arango said.
She said the centre will support them, but often the justice system does not have the capacity to help them.
“My wish is to keep working with iRespect campaign so we can prevent (assault) so we don’t need to say I believe you.”