Pioneers in the development of sexual assault services in Alberta recognized with Inspiration Award
For the first time in Alberta, the Ministry of Human Services has recognized leaders in ending sexual violence along with leaders in family violence prevention with Inspiration Awards. The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services was proud to nominate seven legends who pioneered the development of sexual assault services in the Alberta. These pioneers were recognized with an Inspiration Award for leadership in sexual violence prevention on November 13, 2015 alongside other leaders in family and sexual violence prevention with a plaque of honour. Below is a photo of four of the seven women who were able to attend the ceremony and below is our nomination letter.
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, it is my honour to nominate a remarkable group of women for a 2015 Inspiration Award:
Jacquie Aitken, PACE Sexual Assault Centre
Danielle Aubry, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse
Judy Beebe, Association for Communities Against Abuse (Stettler)
Dianne Howarth, Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support and Information Centre (Red Deer)
Muriel Ralston, Lloydminster Sexual Assault Centre
Karen Smith, Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton
Debra Tomlinson, Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services
At a time of unprecedented recognition and awareness of sexual violence in Alberta, it is so important for us to tell the story of how these pioneers contributed to the establishment of sexual assault services in Alberta. Their leadership has positively impacted countless lives. In preparation for this nomination, AASAS invited the nominees to interview with us not only to collect information to inform this nomination, but also to record our history, or herstory, as a sexual violence sector.
Combined, these women have dedicated nearly one hundred and seventy years, lifetimes, of their careers and their personal lives to establishing services and supports for victims of sexual violence and all the individuals and communities who are affected.
All of these pioneers, these legends of the sector, saw that there was a gap in services and supports for victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse. They saw sexual violence as an issue that was highly marginalized and under resourced. Many in this group began their careers as volunteers or working part time with a handful of other part time staff and volunteers. With a lack of resources in the early decades this group was providing direct services, sometimes on call 24/7, to clients while supervising and managing their organizations. In those days sexual assault services were struggling to stay afloat and respond to tremendous need in their communities. As one pioneer said, ‘We slogged through the trenches while supporting each other’. Despite these challenges, a continuum of services developed over time under their leadership. These leaders built their organization’s credibility one bridge at a time, one funder at a time, one community at a time and earned the trust of their stakeholders.
When asked what motivated these pioneers to stay the course, with little resources or recognition, all of them replied that the strength and resiliency of people affected by sexual violence – their amazing ability to heal and grow through trauma, gave these women the strength and the passion to continue. They did so with commitment, dedication and love for their clients, communities and staff.
It took courage in the early 90s for these pioneers to come together and risk it all to speak with one voice and commit to coordination and collaboration. Forming the Association of Sexual Assault Centres in 1993, they developed a sexual violence sector that today is sophisticated, standardized, and highly professionalized. These pioneers worked tirelessly to build inroads and relationships with policy makers through the development of research, position papers, and a business plan for service delivery in the province. Thanks to their leadership the issue of sexual violence came out from the shadows and into public policy.
Yet these pioneers will all say, ‘Look down the road, there is still so much to do,’ and there is. To know where we are going it is important to look from where we have come. These pioneers have inspired a province into action. Please join me in recognizing their leadership and their courage.
Chair, Board of Directors
Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services