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Roughly one in two Albertans will be a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime

‘We have seen almost a 30 per cent increase in clients accessing our services. So, we don't ever want clients to feel that they're alone,’ says the executive director of Dragon Fly Counselling and Support Centre.
Teal ribbons - dragon fly centre
Teal ribbons for Sexual Violence Awareness Month are available at select locations through out the Lakeland.

LAKELAND – It's shrouded in silence and secrecy, but it is quite prevalent throughout our communities, says Cheryl Bujold, the executive director of the Dragon Fly Counselling and Support Centre. 

Sexual violence impacts 45 per cent of Albertans – that is almost one in every two people. 

Since the Dragonfly Centre’s opening, the non-profit has dedicated special attention to raising awareness around the silent epidemic during the month of May, which is Sexual Violence Awareness Month (SVAM).  

From May 15-21, the organization is also partnering with Victims Services Units and RCMP detachments across the Lakeland to host free barbecues to further connect with the community and raise awareness of the wide scope of services offered in the region for victims, and especially those who are victims of sexual violence. 

Why? Because the third week of May is nationally recognized as Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, which coincides with the launch of the Dragonfly’s SVAM campaign. The non-profit has organized a variety of initiatives throughout the month and across the region acknowledging both the prevalence of sexual violence but also the resilience of survivors of crime and violence.  

“It's important to address this and create awareness because this is an important social issue within our communities,” says Bujold. 

“We have definitely seen over the pandemic, an increase of cases involving both domestic and sexual violence cases.” 

At Dragonfly’s five physical office spaces located in Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, St. Paul, and Athabasca, trained staff provide specialized sexual violence counselling and support to individuals who have been impacted either directly or indirectly by sexual violence.  

The centre provides support for sexual violence survivors of all genders and individuals of all ages starting at the age of three and up. Services provided by Dragonfly are available at no cost. 

The numbers are staggering 

Sexual violence can happen to any person at any age.  

According to Statistics Canada, 511 seniors, including senior men, had reported being the victim of sexual assault in 2018. 

In 2014, the rate of sexual assault among people with a disability was about twice as high as those with no disability in Canada. 

During that same year, Canadians who identified as homosexual or bisexual had a rate of sexual assault six times higher than those who identified as heterosexual. 

Indigenous women and girls in Canada are three times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women. 

Despite the staggering statistics, this is only a small picture of the overall number of sexual violence incidents that take place across the country. It is estimated that 95 per cent of survivors do not report assaults to police, making sexual violence the most under‑reported crime in Canada. 

For this reason, Bujold emphasizes how important it is for Dragonfly to have a relationship with Victim Services Units regardless of whether victims choose to pursue legal action or not.  

“Under four per cent of victims of sexual violence crimes report to police, and so that's why it is so important for police-based systems such as Victim Services, but also community-based systems such as Dragonfly to work together to support all of individuals who are impacted whether they provide a report or not,” she says. 

“We work together to provide wraparound support. Our piece is really to provide emotional support and resources for clients who may be navigating the legal system.” 

Bujold says the secret nature of sexual violence is what makes it such an insidious problem that goes on to have very serious health and social implications. 

“That's why early intervention is prevention,” she says. “We provide a non-judgmental, non-biased environment for individuals to come and access services. Our services are confidential, and we can provide individuals with options for reporting or for further care.” 

Help that’s discrete 

Dragonfly also offers a number of ways that people can access services in non-identifiable ways. 

“We have other spaces where we can meet clients at. Sometimes we are able to meet clients at schools, or in other community settings, wherever the client feels comfortable. We also have a variety of virtual methods where we can connect with clients,” she outlines. 

Dragonfly counsellors can arrange virtual one-on-one sessions, there is also a “chat” feature on the website for individuals who have questions, need support, or want to access services. 

“Our organizations are very client centered, and therefore we want to be able to just meet the client where they are and walk with them in their journey,” says Bujold. 

“Now more than ever, we're seeing an increase in demand for all of our services across all of our programming... I think that just speaks to the high and complex needs at this time.” 

Over the last year, Dragonfly Centres across the region have seen a nearly 30 per cent increase in clients accessing their services. This is an equivalent of over 2,000 clients a year from across the northeast and north central regions of Alberta. 

Because sexual assaults are the most under reported crime, it is unclear if the recent increase in outreach is an indication of more assaults occurring due to external environmental stressors from the pandemic, or if individuals are coming forwarded at higher rates to report. 

With campaigns such as “Me Too,” along with the Alberta-wide campaign, “I Believe You,” and the physical presence of sexual violence support services increasing in rural and remote communities, Bujold says “this may be resulting in a rise in individuals feeling more comfortable to come forward and access supports that they need.” 

On May 20, the Dragonfly Centre, Victims Services Units and local RCMP detachments will be hosting a free barbecue at the Lac La Biche RCMP detachment from 3-7 p.m. 

Similar events will be hosted by the Wabasca-Desmarais detachment on May 18 and Athabasca on May 19.

Teal ribbon

The Dragonfly Centre has put together teal ribbons for Sexual Violence Awareness Month, which are available at select locations through out the Lakeland.

Bonnyville: 

  • Home hardware
  • Pharmasave clinic
  • Pharmasave Davey Drug Mart
  • Tellier Guardian Drugs
  • FCSS
  • Goose Maintenance 

Cold Lake:

  • FCSS
  • Mach 1
  • MFRC
  • Sobey's 
  • Pride in Your Ride Auto Detailing
  • Kinosoo Car Wash

Lac La Biche:

  • FCSS
  • Portage College
  • Vitality Centre Health Food Store

St. Paul

  • FCSS
  • Chrysler Dealership
  • Sobey's
  • Capella Women's Shelter

Athabasca

  • County Office
  • Buy Lo Grocery
  • Van Hout Bakery

Teal ribbons for SVAM will also be available at the Home Hardware in Smoky Lake and Lamont.



Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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