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Allegations of gender-based violence have placed the Calgary community on high alert

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A bigger conversation needs to be held in town exploring why girls and young women feel the need to arm themselves with an emphasis on preventing gender-based violence, Ruse said

Author of the article:

Alanna Smith

Release date:

March 25, 2021 • • 24 minutes ago • • Read for 4 minutes • • Join the conversation Kim Ruse, Executive Director of Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

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Numerous social media posts alleging incidents of intimidation, harassment and assault against Calgary women have kept community members on alert.

Kim Ruse, executive director of the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter (CWES), said the reports were troubling, adding, “It feels like something is changing or changing – and not in a good way.”

“I think the persistent, prolonged stress over the past year is slowly starting to weigh on people,” said Ruse. “There is a stable level of fear in the community that affects people in need of support.”

She expressed concern about the danger to CWES customers and the complexity of the current cases compared to previous years. The isolation and related personal and professional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect family and social dynamics, Ruse added.

Alleged incidents recently posted online, detailed tracking in public and remote places, group of men trying to gain access to a woman’s car while stopping at a red light, attempted kidnapping and violence.

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The Calgary Police Service said its data does not suggest an increase in crime committed by strangers against women in the city, but confirmed that they are investigating several incidents that have surfaced on social media in the past few days.

In particular, the service is investigating a suspected sexual assault that occurred on March 18 in the Beltline. An online post said the incident took place on 5th Street SW near 12th Avenue SW

“Investigators continue to collect evidence and confirm details that would help us provide more information to the public,” police said in a statement. The officers are collecting CCTV footage from the area.

Another report claims that three women were attacked by a group of men on March 20 at around 10:20 p.m. Police confirmed they had been called for a disturbance in the 1400 block on 5th Street SW

“It is believed that a group of women and a man left when a larger group of men approached,” police said. “There was a verbal argument, followed by a physical argument.”

Investigators are currently reviewing the CCTV footage and speaking to witnesses.

I have received a record number of complaints from women who have been molested on the street. Everyone has the right to feel safe. Please report all incidents of street harassment to @CalgaryPolice and @ 311calgary.

– Druh Farrell (@DruhFarrell) March 25, 2021

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“Every crime is one too many,” said the police. “It is imperative that all allegations are investigated and evidence gathered to ensure a fair and equitable trial. This may take some time and we ask for your patience. “

The service added that in some cases, unconfirmed information can lead to “spreading of misinformation and increased fear” in the community.

In Canada, gender-based violence, particularly in relation to sexual assault, is poorly reported.

A safety walk program for the Beltline in Calgary will take place on Thursday, March 25, 2021. A safety walk program for the Beltline in Calgary will take place on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

Following numerous reports on social media, a local Facebook page was created to raise awareness of incidents in the community. In just a few hours, more than 500 members joined, some of whom were sharing safety tips and tools like self-defense key chains.

According to Ruse, people’s connection to digital media is also “much more immediate and tense” as COVID-19 has severed personal connections, leading to increased anxiety.

A bigger conversation needs to take place in town, she added, examining why girls and young women feel the need to arm themselves with an emphasis on violence prevention.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Calgary was getting worse.

“Ultimately, this is a problem for each of us,” he told the media on Thursday.

“Not only do we need to help make every single Calgarian feel safe everywhere – especially women, especially members of racial minorities who are being harassed – but we must all, especially as men, make sure we exclaim this type of bad behavior when we see it. “

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A grassroots security initiative has also emerged since social media posts were posted online.

Three locals are working to start a program called the Calgary Safe Walk, where volunteers accompany people who do not feel safe walking alone.

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“A lot of people want change to make their cities feel safer,” said co-founder Kenton Hrkynk. “I’m not saying that Calgary is an unsafe city, but we can add another layer to what already exists.”

Similar programs exist in post-secondary locations across the country. Hrkynk said the group hopes to get started in four to six weeks after putting in place a volunteer screening process, speaking with community stakeholders, and studying best practices.

Rebecca Sullivan, a professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in feminist media, said people should be aware of how the intersections of race, gender, class and sexuality affect current events.

“There is no question that we have significant problems with gender-based and sexual violence,” said Sullivan.

“But we can all do better to bring several dimensions together. We are able to understand problems of gender-specific and sexual violence as potentially also racist, queer-phobic and transphobic, which has to do with class inequality and economic discrimination. “

Sullivan said the solution lies in prevention, which could include better sex education, changes in the judicial system and overhaul of attitudes in society.

– With files from Madeline Smith

alsmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: alanna_smithh

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