News / Calgary

Empowering Alberta sexual assault survivors with #IBelieveYou

'The situation isn’t simple, but the words are simple'

According to Danielle Aubry, the words I Believe You can help survivors feel empowered when reaching out for help.

Aaron Chatha, Metro

According to Danielle Aubry, the words I Believe You can help survivors feel empowered when reaching out for help.

Three simple words: I believe you.

The #IBelieveYou sexual assault awareness campaign launched this week with a focus on educating friends and family to help sexual assault survivors feel safe coming forward.

Campaign numbers estimate 97 per cent of sexual assaults go unreported in Canada. They say victims will most likely reach out to friends and family members, most often women. However, they found only 15 per cent of Albertans strongly agreed they would know what to say if someone told them they had been sexually assaulted.

“We’re emphasising that it’s really simple. The situation isn’t simple, but the words are simple,” said Danielle Aubry, executive director of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services. “I believe you.”

The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, in collaboration with a number of other organizations, including 23 post-secondary institutions, is leading the campaign. It’s spreading awareness through radio, television and social media. They’ll be using the hashtag #IBelieveYou across social media.

Digital media will aim to put the viewer inside a critical moment in a sexual assault survivor’s life, with first-person accounts.

The campaign is funded by the Government of Alberta and will run through September and October.

“We believe we could do a good job, a better job, than we are currently doing, and continue to make a safer place for our whole community,” said Gaye Warthe, chair of the Department of social work and Disability Studies at Mount Royal University. “This is not a new issue. This issue has been around for a long time. And this is a good opportunity to see what we can do on our campus.”

She said the school has already found successes with programs like Stepping Up, where victims of abuse can speak with trained peer facilitators.

She said the campaign is a chance for post-secondary institutions to rise to the challenge of address sexual violence.

What to say when someone reaches out

According the a province-wide poll conducted by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, nearly two-thirds of Albertans somewhat agreed that they would know what to say if someone told them they had been sexually assaulted.

Only 15 per cent said they strongly agreed that they knew what to say.

Danielle Aubry, executive director with the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services said the following phrases could help encourage someone who is reaching out.

“I believe you.”

“I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I don’t really know what to do from here, but I believe you, and it’s really important that we move forward.”

She said it’s then important to ask the survivor what they would like to do next. Giving them the empowerment to make their own decisions is critical to helping them move forward. Survivors who get a positive response are much more likely to get help and seek justice.

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