By Peggy Revell on September 21, 2016.
I believe you. Three simple words to show support for survivors of sexual assault â€” and the focus of an awareness campaign now underway across the province.
“Part of the reason people don’t come forward is the fear they will not be believed,” explained Christina Johnson, executive director of the Southeastern Alberta Sexual Assault Response Committee, as she and representatives from the Students Association of Medicine Hat College spent part of Tuesday handing out #ibelieveyou stickers and fake tattoos and information on how people can support survivors.
The province-wide campaign was well received when it launched for the first time last year, said Johnson, and empowers people to respond in a way that’s helpful.
“When people disclose, often people don’t know what to say. But those three words are such a simple yet powerful message.”
The campaign also helps show people where they can access services, justice and different ways of healing, she said.
The campaign’s focus has evolved from just “I believe you” to include “we believe you,” Johnson explained. Last year it was found that 80 per cent of people said they would personally believe a survivor â€” but only 60 per cent believe other people in the community would do the same.
So the goal this year is to show collective support and bridge that gap.
MHC administration was also on hand Tuesday to show support for the campaign.
“I think how we approach any issue regarding violating or unwanted attention by a person, we believe the victim, and we protect the victim,” said MHC CEO and president Denise Henning, after she and others each got their fake #ibelieveyou tattoos.
It doesn’t mean the college sidesteps due process and the law, she said, but that “we act quickly to ensure we’re doing everything as an institution to protect all of our students from sexual violence.”
This sort of support comes as many post-secondary institutions across Canada and the United States face accusations of attempting to cover up and mitigate cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
As of this fall, Henning, alongside heads of all post-secondary institutions from across the province have developed and signed on to a uniform framework for addressing sexual violence.
This includes setting up a responding process, ensuring people are believed and taken seriously, and that it isn’t treated as a lesser issue.
“It’s about ensuring safety,” said Henning.
The campaign runs until mid October, with people encouraged to take videos and photos and post to social media with the #ibelieveyou hashtag to show they’re support.
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