3 Alberta organizations join forces to better support Indigenous survivors of violence

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Deb Tomlinson, CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, is among those working on a project to help Indigenous survivors of trauma have better access to supports. (Submitted by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services - image credit)
Deb Tomlinson, CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, is among those working on a project to help Indigenous survivors of trauma have better access to supports. (Submitted by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services - image credit)

Three Alberta organizations are launching a joint-initiative to improve the outcomes for Indigenous survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

The Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association, Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services and Alberta Council of Women's Shelters will be teaming up on a three-year collaborative project: Centring Relationships to End Violence.

The project will focus on reducing the barriers Indigenous survivors of sexual and domestic violence face when seeking support. It will also help address the disproportionate rate at which Indigenous people experience violence.

"There's an urgency to advance the calls to justice from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women [and Girls] inquiry, from the Truth and Reconciliation [Commission]. We, as civil society groups, know we need to do our part and this is certainly a part of getting there," said Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.

The initiative will work to improve outcomes for Indigenous people who are survivors of violence, such as looking at how people are impacted by violence and the links to intergenerational trauma, according to a news release.

Some questions the organizations will examine include how to recognize what happened when dealing with intergenerational trauma, how to best provide support to survivors and how to equip front-line workers so they can properly help people, said Reimer.

Submitted by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
Submitted by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters

Indigenous people disproportionately experience sexual violence: organizations

About 43 per cent of Albertans reported that someone perpetrated sexual violence against them at some point in their lives, according to research conducted by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services in 2020.

But nearly two-thirds of Indigenous respondents said they experienced sexual violence.

"Sexual violence is a crime of power and control. So those individuals in our communities who are discriminated against are at a higher risk of experiencing this crime," said CEO Deb Tomlinson.

Canada's history and the systemic abuses experienced by generations of Indigenous people factor into why Indigenous people in Alberta experience sexual violence more than others, she said.

Sexual violence is an intergenerational issue that can come with stigma and shame for all survivors, and that may make people hesitant from seeking help, said Tomlinson.

But trauma from racism and colonialism in Canada also impacts how Indigenous people access supports, she said.

"If you look at colonialism, you can see how that reluctance to come forward and to talk about how you've been harmed would be even greater for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence than it would be for others," said Tomlinson.

Centring Relationships to End Violence will better help each organization address these challenges, said Reimer of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.

The project has received funding from the Feminist Response and Recovery Fund — a federal grant offered by Women and Gender Equality Canada, a federal department that focuses on advancing gender equality.

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