By Fabian Mayer, September 10 2015 —
The University of Calgary will be a part of the province’s newly launched “I Believe You” campaign, which aims to educate the public on how to appropriately respond when survivors of sexual assault come forward.
The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) is running the provincially funded campaign. Vice-provost student experience Susan Barker said all of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions have committed to being involved in the effort by spreading the campaign’s message on their campuses.
“Any campaign that gets people talking about these issues has got to be a good thing,” Barker said.
According to the AASAS website, up to 97 per cent of sexual assaults are never reported to police. Barker hopes the “I Believe You” campaign will lead to more victims reporting incidents of sexual violence.
“If somebody has suffered from sexual violence, they need to tell us and share that with us,” Barker said. “There are the supports here to help them work through that and for us to ensure that any perpetrators are dealt with through the legal process.”
Consent Awareness and Sexual Education (CASE) club president Hilary Jahelka welcomes the province’s attention to the issue.
“It shows that we support survivors. That’s a very important thing, especially today because there’s a lot of victim blaming,” Jahelka said. “Those three words ‘I believe you’ are so powerful when someone does disclose to you about sexual assault.”
CASE will be the campaign’s student representative on campus, and will work with the Women’s Resource Centre to bring the “I Believe You” message to campus with informational booths and materials.
Jahelka declined to comment when asked if she thought the university was doing enough on the issue of sexual violence, although she did say there were improvements.
“There’s definitely progress,” Jahelka said. “The university is taking a step in addressing the issues of assault on campus.”
Barker said the university is focusing its efforts on 16 days of action leading up to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec. 6.
“It’s going to be a little later in the term than some of the other institutions,” Barker said.
According to Barker, the issue of sexual violence has become especially prominent on campuses across Canada.
“The last year and a half there’s been national attention on universities’ role in having the conversation, having policies and having this as an issue that we need to be involved with,” Barker said.