On the same day a march is set to take place in Edmonton to call for an end to sexual violence and show solidarity with survivors, the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) says it is seeing a spike in demand for their services.
“We can barely keep up,” Mary Jane James, the SACE’s executive director, said on Friday. “Our wait list has gone from about six months to… the nine-, 10-month point.”
She said it’s difficult having to tell someone who’s just summoned the courage to tell their story that there’s a long wait to see someone at the centre.
“It often results in a person just being so emotional and so upset about it that they say, ‘Oh just forget it. If I can’t see anybody now, I can’t hold this in anymore.”
Watch Below: Dozens of people marched in the annual Take Back the Night Walk Friday in Edmonton. Sarah Kraus reports.
James said she believes many of the SACE’s recent calls are indirectly related to the sudden widespread use of the #metoo hashtag. The hashtag spread like wildfire over social media ever since sexual abuse allegations were levelled by women against Hollywood studio executive Harvey Weinstein.
Almost two weeks ago, actress Alyssa Milano popularized the hashtag – a phrase she credits social activist Tarana Burke with first using online over a decade ago – when she tweeted: “Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'”
“This whole #metoo campaign has really empowered people to be able to join the chorus of voices to say enough is enough,” James said. “This happened to me too. It’s wrong. It shouldn’t happen. We’re not going to stand for it anymore.”
Watch below: People are using the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter to illustrate the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. Actress Alyssa Milano launched the campaign on Oct. 15, 2017, to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Merryn Edwards is with the group Women For Rights and Empowerment which is organizing Friday’s Take Back the Night event. She said the event is important for helping women to feel safe and empowered “because they are marching together, they are unafraid to go out into the night and take back the spaces they might otherwise feel insecure or vulnerable in.”
“It’s become an international movement of people coming together to oppose sexual assault and all forms of gender-based violence,” she said.
James suggested she believes society still has much to learn in terms of how to approach the topic of sexual assault and how to support victims.
“We’re constantly, even today, trying to find a way to blame the victim,” she said. “As a community we have to find a way to get beyond that.
“The #metoo campaign now has to be a ‘What now?’ campaign. What are we going to do about it? People are speaking out, we know it’s an epidemic problem, we know how serious it is – so what are we going to do about it?”
Friday’s Take Back the Nigh event gets underway at 5:30 p.m. at the Ironworkers Local 720 Union Hall at 10512 122 St. The event includes speakers, cultural performances and a women’s and children’s march in the 124 Street area.
-With files from Sarah Kraus