Press Release – #IBelieveYou Campaign
#IBelieveYou campaign to dramatically improve response to sexual assault
Medicine Hat, Alberta – August 31, 2015 – An ambitious public awareness and prevention campaign aimed at educating the public on how to better respond to survivors of sexual assault launched today. Led by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS), the campaign is supported by Alberta’s twenty-six post-secondary institutions and dozens of other community agencies. Funded by the Government of Alberta, the campaign will run province-wide through the month of September.
“This campaign is taking a unique approach to stopping sexual assault by educating first responders—usually friends and family—who are critical in helping survivors feel safe to come forward,” said Christina Johnson, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Response Committee, “Ninety-seven percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Educating responders is a form of prevention because survivors who get a positive response are much more likely to get help, and seek justice.”
Province-wide polling shows that only 15% of Albertans ‘strongly agree’ that they would know what to say if someone disclosed a sexual assault. The goal of the campaign is to improve those statistics. “By educating the public about the power of three simple words—#IBelieveYou—we can dramatically improve outcomes for survivors and help stop sexual assault.”
Johnson added that although sexual assault is a complex issue, the first response is surprisingly simple. I’m sorry that happened, it’s not your fault, and I believe you are the best things to say. The role of responders is not to play judge and jury, but to listen and empathize. From there, the justice system can take over and do its job.
“Our government stands with survivors of sexual assault,” said The Honourable Irfan Sabir, Minister of Human Services. “If you have been affected by sexual violence, I believe you. I encourage all Albertans to join this important campaign. Spread the message to others by saying I believe you. Together, we will help heal and stop sexual assault – we will create safe communities for all.” The government will support the campaign through the Ministries of Human Services, Justice, Status of Women, Education, Health, and Innovation & Advanced Education.
Post-secondary institutions in Alberta are supporting the campaign with on-campus initiatives throughout the fall, reflecting their shared concern for the issue. “The #IBelieveYou campaign is one important step among many to foster safe and healthy environments for everyone,” said Dr. David Docherty, President of Mount Royal University, speaking on behalf of post-secondary participants. “We invite other organizations to join us in educating people on how to respond to sexual assault survivors,” he added. Declaring MacEwan University an “I Believe You” campus, President David Atkinson stated: “Equipping friends, family members, and co-workers with three simple words, “I believe you,” highlights the big impact of small actions. The simplicity of the statement reminds us how easy it is for each of us to contribute to creating a culture of respect, dignity, and equality.”
Built around the themes of relationship, loyalty, and healing, the campaign includes research, media relations, PSA/advertising, digital platforms, and social engagement. The campaign applies social change theory by modeling positive behavior—creating various scenarios between friends, children, and parents that are easily relatable and repeatable. Post-campaign research will be conducted to measure the impact of the campaign. Media Partners include Newad, Bell Media, Shaw Media, and SOS Safety Magazine.
Contact: Christina Johnson, Executive Director, Medicine Hat Sexual Assault Response Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org, (403) 548-2717
Why Now: According to 2009 data, in Canada there are an estimated twenty-four sexual assaults a year for every thousand people. That’s over 800,000 incidents annually. Sexual assault can have long term effects on a person’s life, including issues related to mental and physical health, education, income, and work. The combined personal and social costs are in the billions of dollars.
Province-Wide Polling: Earlier this year, we worked with Leger Research to conduct focus groups, and a province-wide quantitative study of 1,001 Albertans 18 years or older. We asked two questions: If someone told you s/he had been sexually assaulted would you know what to say? And, What would you say?
· Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Albertans at least somewhat agreed that they would know what to say if someone told them that he/she had been sexually assaulted.
· However, only 15% of Albertans ‘strongly agreed’ that they would know what to say if someone told them that they had been sexually assaulted.
· Females aged 55 years and older, and those who are divorced, separated or widowed were significantly more likely to agree.
· Of those who would know what to say, the majority would respond by giving advice (go to police/get medical help/get counseling) and asking questions (tell me what happened). Twenty-one percent of responses included empathetic language (I’m sorry/it’s not your fault) and one per cent included the phrase “I believe you”—the words survivors most need to hear.
· We will survey again at the end of the campaign to see how far we have moved the bar. We’ll also gain measure the number of survivors who come forward for help.
Target: The majority of victims are young women in their teens and twenties and they’re most likely to reach out to a friend or family member (usually a woman). Our campaign is skewed toward women, but male versions of the creative have also been developed reflecting the fact that this crime affects all genders, sexual orientations, and ages.
Thunderclap: Throughout the campaign, supporters can donate their social platforms by signing up on Thunderclap—an online platform that helps people rally together to spread a message. On September 30 we’ll mass-broadcast our #IBelieveYou message through the social networks of those who have signed up, expanding our reach across Alberta—and even the world.