SAIT believes you
The #IBelieveYou campaign is working to spread awareness about supporting and believing victims of sexual assault.
“We think the IBelieveYou campaign is critically important because too often victims of sexual assault don’t come forward and talk to anybody or disclose what happened to them or go for help because of the stigma of being victimized,” said Michael Sondermann, associate registrar and director of student services at SAIT.
The campaign is an Alberta wide initiative that aims to stress the importance of a supportive response to survivors of sexual assault who disclose their attack.
“We want to have a community that is outraged at sexual assault and speaks out against it. That they are comfortable in reacting to those who are victimized and willing to help,” said Sondermann.
The IBelieveYou campaign first came to SAIT two years ago.
Now these policies, similar to SAIT’s, are province-wide.
These policies outline the appropriate response when someone who has been sexually assaulted speaks up.
“I think the IBelieveYou campaign is a great message to send to victims of sexual assault that it is okay to come forward because the focus of the campaign is those of us who receive disclosures,” said Sondermann.
Sexual assault survivors often face difficult and irrelevant questions like, “what were you wearing,” and, “how much did you have to drink.”
“Those are not the questions you ask, those are not the things that you say when you have somebody disclose to you that they have been victimized,” said Sondermann.
“What you say is, ‘I believe you,’ what do you need from me and what can I do to help? The more we can convince people those are the only things to say, the only thing that needs to be said, the better off we all are.”
The aim of this is to make survivors of sexual assault feel more comfortable coming forward.
“I think that there’s a stigma around talking about any sort of assault or violence especially sexual assault or sexual violence,” said Shona White, SAITSA marketing and communications assistant manager.
There are a number of options available on and off campus for people who have been sexually assaulted.
“That’s SAIT’s policy, no matter who [you go to] whether you work for SAIT, work for SAITSA or whether you’re a student they will believe you,” said White.
Student development and counselling is free and confidential. SAIT has an agreement with Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault (CCASA), and they provide crisis response, police and court support, outreach and 24/7 sexual assault counselling.
CCASA also offers help for the family and the people around victims to help them be a better support system.
The campaign now has a social media reach of over 40 million people thanks in part to the #MeToo campaign, said Debra Tomlinson, CEO of Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS).
SAIT was one of the first campuses to partner with AASAS to create sexual assault and sexual violence policies.
“Our aim is for survivors to feel safe to tell someone,” said Tomlinson.
“Sexual assault has the lowest reporting rate of any crime in Canada and equally low, is the number of people who reach out to helping professionals.”
AASAS works with community members and government members to ensure people in Alberta have access to the services they need to deal with the event, and to report the event if they so choose.
They also work on awareness, making sure all Albertans know how serious of a crime sexual assault is, and what effect it can have on survivors.
Since the launch of the IBelieveYou campaign, Calgary has seen a 20 per cent increase in the reporting of sexual assaults to police and AASAS has seen a 53 per cent increase in counselling clients.
“It can be difficult for students to reach out to counselling or the police, sometimes they reach out to their peers so make sure you’re listening,” said White.