June 15th, 2021

#IBelieveYou lifting stigma of sexual assault

By Peggy Revell on December 14, 2016.

Irlanda Price, associate vice-president with Medicine Hat College, gets a temporary #ibelieveyou tattoo from Kristin Armstrong with SARC in September. The campaign has shown positive results in helping people understand how to best support survivors of sexual violence.--FILE PHOTO


There’s been encouraging results with the #IBelieveYou campaign since launching last year.

“We are extremely excited that more Albertans would say “I believe you,'” said Christina Johnson, executive director of Southeastern Alberta Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC), on the impact documented so far from the province-wide campaign, which aims to educate people on how to respond to survivors of sexual assault. The campaign launched in 2015, and ran this year in September and October.

“We believe that has led to an increase in service access for individuals who have experienced sexual assault and sexual abuse. We’ve seen our numbers triple during the campaign run,” Johnson added, saying that having the positive messaging of “I believe you” and “We believe you, as a community” leads to people feeling safe in accessing these services.

“This doesn’t mean that sexual assault is increasing; what it means is more people are accessing services during that time,” she added.

The campaign was documented by the Association of Sexual Assault Services.

Following the #Ibelieveyou campaign, in a province-wide poll that was conducted, it was found that 65 per cent of the public agrees they would know what to say to someone who disclosed a sexual assault, with 66 per cent of those saying they would give a positive response to a survivor — such as “I’m sorry that happened, it’s not your fault, you’re not alone.”

This is up from 21 per cent, prior to the campaign.

Of those who would know what to say, 12 per cent would use the specific “I believe you” phrase — an increase of one per cent from before the campaign.

Johnson said she hopes the message is maintained in the years ahead — that when people come forward to talk about sexual assault and abuse that the “I believe you” message continues, and offers of support if wanted.

Support can include connecting with SARC, which has a network navigation program show people what options they have.

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