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Local organization ACAA offers crucial support to victims of sexual abuse August 13, 2021 @ 10:35 am

Stephanie Hadley is the Executive Director of Association of Communities Against Abuse (ACAA)

Statics show that 45% of Albertans have suffered some type of sexual violence making the local organization ACAA critical to the welfare of our community.

Stephanie Hadley is the Executive Director of the Association of Communities Against Abuse, the organization the provides immediate support and long-term therapy for survivors of sexual violence and trauma. The Stettler office is the hub of several remote offices, or partnered offices, that help bring support services to surrounding communities.

ACAA's area stretches from highway 21 to the Saskatchewan border, and as far south as Oyen, and north to Vegreville. Much of the staff at the different offices are mobile, often traveling to the nearby offices to help those who need their services.

“Timely intervention is important.” Stephanie Hadley, ED of ACAA

ACAA is a full member of the Alberta Association Sexual Assault Services. Hadley explains that the AASAS has been beneficial for groups like hers to help establish a close working relationship with the Provincial government. his has helped them to work with the province in establishing new province-wide programs and services while working collaboratively as a network. Programs such as a 1-800-number that can be called to direct people who need help, to their nearest office or service provider. It has also helped offices like ACAA secure funding over the long term which was often quite difficult for ACAA to apply for and be assured. The ACAA network has several different funding sources including Central Alberta United Way, Alberta Health, Community & Social Services, Justice and many of them provide funding for certain services, or programs.

All counsellors with ACAA have masters degrees or higher in psychology, social work or equivalent. The counsellors deal with a variety of problems faced by their clients such as trauma, PTSD, and Complex PTSD.

Hadley says she has seen fantastic changes in regards to supporting and treating survivors of abuse. Research into trauma has come a long way, and they are discovering effective ways to treat the physical impacts, as well as the mental and emotional effects it has on people using various modalities.

The province has also started to implement new programs designed at making the justice system more approachable by survivors of sexual violence. They have implemented programs and options for pre-reporting and court support. This means that someone can come in and find out about their rights, and the steps they can take if they decide to report. The programs also help make survivors less intimidated by the court and legal system. ACAA can support them to start the process of reporting, and potentially dealing with the challenges they may encounter while engaged in criminal justice system.

Hadley says that although they are obligated to ensure that abuse against children is reported if the person(s) involved don’t don’t report, they are not legally bound, or required to report abuse against adults. What they will do is offer accurate information and then support the survivor through client centered services, while respecting individual needs and choices.

“We don’t suggest what they do. We just let them know their options.” Stephanie Hadley, Executive Director of ACAA

Although statics show that 45% of Albertans have suffered sexual violence, only approximately 5% ever report it to authorities. Hadley does say there have been increases in people coming in for information, as well as an increase in reports of abuse. Movements like #metoo and #ibelieveyou have been successful in helping to promote reporting abuse.

Hadley estimates that last year they saw around 200 people come in for support and estimates over 300 people accessed the organization’s services. She is also happy to mention that last year saw 3,000 people receive training from her organization on subjects such as recognizing sexual abuse, and how to support a victim who has stepped forward. All of the education last year was done virtually. She says her office is one of many that will benefit from the Federal government’s efforts to improve rural internet, since many people in rural areas experience barriers in access to internet or transportation to a nearby center to report, or receive assistance.

Hadley says that ACAA is working with U of C (Werklund Institute) education consultants to improve and develop specialized education programs for children, youth and adults in the area of sexual violence awareness, consent and support networks.

If you do find yourself in a situation where someone has approached you and discloses they are being abused, Hadley says there are crucial things to remember in that situation:

  • Remain calm

  • Thank them for telling you. (You are someone they feel safe opening up to and that is important.)

  • Assure them that they are NOT to blame

  • Offer to help them take the next step, and to be there when they do

At the same time, Hadley says it is important to be aware of what not to do:

  • Do NOT tell them what to do. Support them the best you can, but do not instruct them.

  • Do NOT berate or question them. Your intentions might be well-meaning but it is not the appropriate time, and may impact evidence if the crime is reported at a later date.

  • NEVER assume you can touch them or hug them to console them. Hadley says this is important to remember that people will often instinctively try to touch or hold someone to console them. She says it is important to ask a survivor before you physically touch them.

For questions about services please contact:


Community or Self Referrals welcome, no cost for services.

1-866-807-3558 or in the Stettler area: 1-403-742-3558

The ACAA office is located in the old ATCO building across from the Heartland Youth Center. They share the building with Stettler Information and Referral, the Stettler office for the Lacombe Action Group, and M&H Services. All of which are services aimed at helping people in various ways, and can often help refer services if their clients need them.


Alberta One-line for Sexual Violence (help and info line): 1-866-403-8000

  • Available via text or chat.

Carson Ellis, Reporter

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