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Gazette article encourages recklessness

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am

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Re: If assaulted hit and run by Amy Crofts in the Feb. 5 edition of the St. Albert Gazette.

While I am pleased to see the Gazette report on community issues of violence, I would not want readers to assume that women taking a self-defense course will make them assault-proof. Taking a self-defence course may make individuals feel more confident, have improved self-esteem, decreased anxiety and enhanced self-efficacy, which is always a positive thing.

Facts: Anyone can experience violence (physical and/or sexual) regardless of age, ability, ethnic heritage, community of faith, socieo-economic level, educational standing, gender or sexual orientation. Perpetrators are of both genders.

Most victims and perpetrators of assault know each other. Stranger assaults are extremely rare. We all expect to be safe inside our homes, but the reality is that most assaults actually happen within our own residence by someone we know and trust.

Many victims of violence, including those who have taken a self-defense course, “freeze” during an assault. Victims often feel somehow responsible for the violence perpetrated against them. They are asked by well meaning family, friends, law enforcement and medical professionals “did you fight back, did you run?” When they have taken a self-defence course and yet during an actual assault they freeze, this often leads to the victim’s feelings of increased shame because they “let it happen.”

Children are the most common victims of sexual violence. The numbers are staggering. One in three girls and one in six boys will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime – and most of that violence will happen prior to their 18th birthday.

People with disabilities are far too often the victim of assault. Statistics vary – but it is recognized that between 80 per cent and 95 per cent of individuals with a disability experience violence.

Seniors are frequently the target of physical and sexual violence.

While I encourage everyone to take steps to make themselves feel safer, as a society we have to do more. Rather than giving people “tips” on how to stay safe (that may or may not be relevant or realistic), we need to educate everyone. Rather than giving the message “do this and you won’t be assaulted” we need to put the blame on the only people responsible for violence – the offenders and potential offenders – and say “don’t assault.”

Karen Smith, executive director, Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, St. Albert resident


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