Believing survivors is sweeping across Alberta
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#IBelieveYou Campaign Story
Now in its second year, #IBelieveYou is celebrating the people across our community who are supporting survivors of sexual assault like never before. After generations of minimizing or justifying sexual assault, public sentiment is shifting dramatically toward believing as a first step. That’s important because when survivors feel safe to tell, they’re more likely to get help and seek justice, and make our communities healthier and safer for everyone.
Province-wide polling by Leger Research indicates the following:
- That a majority of Albertans (83%) would personally start by believing a survivor.
- However, only 60% believe other people in the community would do the same.
This gap suggests average Albertans (and survivors) don’t fully recognize the groundswell of support for survivors happening before our eyes. The campaign goal is to close this gap.
The campaign is a partnership between the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) and the Government of Alberta, Ministry of Human Services.
Believing is a powerful defense against sexual assault
- Sexual assault is a severely under-reported crime—up to 97% of assaults are never reported to police. Many survivors never tell even a friend or family member (1).
This low rate of reporting dramatically affects the safety and health of our entire community—because people who need help don’t get it, and because offenders keep offending.
- Believing is a form of prevention since people who receive a positive, compassionate response are more likely to get help, seek justice, and help stop the cycle of abuse.
Why is believing so powerful?
- One of the most effective threats assailants can make against victims is to warn them to keep quiet—“because no one will believe you.” This is a lie that we are addressing head on.
- Responders are often afraid of saying the wrong thing, and creating more harm with their words. Most will try to give advice (get help) or ask questions (tell me what happened). But a positive response is most helpful. Try saying I’m sorry that happened, it’s not your fault, and I believe you—the three words survivors most need to hear.
- When we start by believing, due diligence can happen. Believing is the first step, but it’s not the only step.
By the numbers
- According to Canada’s most recent General Social Survey, there are 24 sexual assaults per year for every thousand people over the age of 15 in Canada. Based on Alberta’s population, there are about 7000 assaults per month (2).
- Sexual assault can have long term effects on a person’s life, including issues related to mental and physical health, education, income, and jobs.
- The direct costs of sexual assault are estimated to be more than $546 million a year. That number rises to nearly $2 billion if pain and suffering are calculated (3)
What else can you do?
- Avoid asking “why” questions because they may sound accusatory. Avoid blaming in any way.
- Give contact information for a local sexual assault centre. In Alberta, free and confidential services can be found by clicking here. For help in other Provinces and Territories, visit the Ending Violence Association of Canada by clicking here.
- If the sexual assault is recent, ask if s/he would like to be treated for sexually transmitted infections or possible pregnancy.
- Reporting to police is optional, and there is no time limit on reporting. Respect their decision, whatever it may be.
- If the individual is over 18, reporting to police is optional, and there is no time limit on reporting. Respect their decision, whatever it may be.
- However, you have a legal obligation to report the sexual abuse of a child to the authorities. If you’re unsure about who to call, you can call your local sexual assault service for referral information. DO NOT contact parents if their child discloses sexual abuse; you must always contact the authorities first.
- Take care of yourself. It‘s never easy to hear that someone you care about has been sexually assaulted. It can also be confusing if you know both people involved. Find someone to talk to about your feelings, such as an expert at a sexual assault service.
- Take First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training. For upcoming trainings and to register click here.
If you’ve doubted someone in the past, remember it’s never too late to start believing.
Campaign media release
AASAS – I Believe You – News Release September 19, 2016
AASAS – I Believe You – Media Advisory Albertans invited to take part in interactive PSA September 19, 2016
Downloadable campaign content
I Believe You posters – 8.5″x11″
I Believe You web banners
I Believe You campaign logo files
Read our Blog
Did we move the bar?
Download our Infographic detailing the huge successes of the 2016 #IBelieveYou campaign here.
- Johnson, H. (2012). Limits of a Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault. Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practise, and Womens Activism, 613-634.
- Perreault, S., & Brennan, S. (2009). Criminal Victimization in Canada. Statistics Canada. Retrieved From: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2010002/article/11340-eng.htm.
- McInturff, K. (2013). The Gap in the Gender Gap. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Ottawa, ON.