Edmonton arts community bands together in support of sexual abuse survivors

Musicians, comedians and burlesque dancers performed in front of a packed crowd at The Buckingham on Sunday to raise money for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

Funds raised for Sexual Assault Centre at charity shows

More than 40 people came to Aria's Bistro Friday for a fundraiser for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, organizers say. (Owais Siddiqui/Facebook)

Musicians, comedians and burlesque dancers performed in front of a packed crowd at The Buckingham on Sunday to raise money for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

"In order for the behavioural change to happen, we need to keep talking about it," said Sara Bruno, who produced and performed at the Black Label Burlesque event.

The show, which featured 11 acts, raised $937 for the sexual assault centre.

Bruno says sexual abuse is prevalent in the arts community. She organized the event to help raise awareness about sexual abuse and to show support for survivors.

"We wanted it to be an empowering thing where people come and they get revved up and they get excited and they're like 'Hell yeah, let's be on the right side of this change,' " she said.

Wave of support for sexual assault centre

The subject of sexual abuse came under the spotlight in Edmonton when Brittany Rudyck, a former employee of The Needle Vinyl Tavern, alleged one of the venue owners groped her in March.

"That created a wave, and that wave has been flooding into places like the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton," Bruno said.

The centre has been busy since the news about The Needle broke, said Annette Klevgaard, a public educator with the centre.

"There has been a huge increase of need for support," she said. "With so many large media stories coming out, calls to our centre have really, really skyrocketed."

Over the last year, the number of people trying to access counselling through the centre has jumped by 53 per cent, Klevgaard said.

The trigger behind the increased need for support is difficult to pinpoint, but Klevgaard said people might feel safer in asking for support because the stigma and shame associated with sexual abuse victims is slowly eroding.

"When somebody comes out and says they've been sexually abused and they're met with belief and support, then other people start to see that and they feel like they can come out and get help," Klevgaard said, highlighting how the community came together to support Rudyck.

The money raised at this weekend's charity show will help fund the centre's counselling services and the 24-hour support and information line.

'Standing with survivors'

Ellen Reade organized a second fundraiser, which took place at Aria's Bistro on Friday and raised $450 for the sexual assault centre.

Reade's band Brunch Club boycotted The Needle after Rudyck's allegations became public. The band organized the charity concert in response.

"It just seems obvious that people need to start taking a stand against [sexual abuse]," she said. "It's long overdue."

Reade said people in all industries need to take a stand — not just those in arts and entertainment.

"I don't think that it's a thing specific to the music community," she said. "It's just a terrible thing that happens everywhere."

Klevgaard agrees.

"Rather than pinpointing a specific industry, it's also important to just think at a cultural level how pervasive this issue is," she said. "One in three women and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18 across Canada."

When Rudyck went public with her allegations, Reade was skeptical about how the community would respond because The Needle was a popular venue. She said the community showed up to support sexual assault victims.

"People are standing with survivors rather than the venue they like," Reade said. "This sort of behaviour from people in power isn't acceptable anymore. It never was acceptable, but we're not going to let it happen anymore."

Sexual abuse victims looking for support can call the 24-hour sexual assault line at 780-423-4121.