I believe you
Campaign to support victims of sexual assault is back for year two
By Amy Tucker, News Editor
Imagine keeping silent about a life changing and devastating experience for your entire life because there was nowhere safe to disclose.
That’s what Danielle Aubry, the executive director at Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, challenged her audience to envision at the “I Believe You” campaign kick off.
“I’d like you to think for a moment about the profound isolation and loneliness that results from keeping a secret like sexual assault or sexual abuse,” said Aubry.
“Think about a nine-year-old child experiencing …sexual assault in their home by someone they love, who they trust and, because of so many things, they don’t tell anyone.”
The Albertan campaign, aimed at supporting victims of sexual assault, is returning for a second year after its successful launch one year ago. Last year, the “I Believe You” campaign aimed to educate Albertans on how important it is to give a positive response to a disclosure of sexual assault. This time, the campaign is making its focus to celebrate Albertans who are believing and supporting victims of sexual assault.
“Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in Canada” said Debra Tomlinson, the chief executive officer at the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services – a provincial network made up of 12 sexual assault services across the province. “Even conservatively speaking, less than 10 per cent of survivors report to the police. One in ten actually reach out to a helping professional.”
Tomlinson says that for generations, victims stay quiet about the incident and so the crime remains underground. Now, victims are finally coming forward.
“That’s what we want to shine the light on, so survivors know that there are lots and lots of people out there who if they disclose, would give them a compassionate and supportive response,” said Tomlinson.
After over 20 years working in the field, Tomlinson says that the most positive change around public attitudes and public sentiment towards survivors of sexual assault has been made in just the last two years.
“I think it’s a result of a lot of publicity around the high profile cases that we’ve seen. The social media response like Facebook and Twitter that can carry the voices of survivors forward,” said Tomlinson.
Tomlinson also points out the celebrity icons that have made waves in the issue such as movies like The Hunting Ground and Lady Gaga who at the Oscars performed Until It Happens to You a song dedicated to survivors of sexual assault.
When the campaign initially kicked off over a year and a half ago, it reached out to post secondaries across Alberta and was responded to with enthusiasm – today, “I Believe You” is partnered with every post secondary in Alberta. The initiatives some campuses are taking include hanging posters about the campaign, hosting information booths on orientation day and promoting the “I Believe You” message through social media.
Indeed the message is spreading among university students in Alberta. An event was held in Edmonton, Sept. 23, to film a video for the “I Believe You” campaign, part of AASAS. The video featured two female hockey players supporting each other as well as an arena filled with people who would show their support and love for survivors. The majority of the people involved were students. The video was filmed at Kenilworth Arena in Edmonton, an arena which can hold 325 spectators.
“We even had buses of students coming from Calgary,” said Tomlinson.
Opening up the conversation about sexual violence and relationship health has increasingly become a priority at Mount Royal University. Last winter, the event “Who is Frank?” an initiative for frankly speaking about the elephant on campus – sexual violence among students, was hosted at MRU.
The number of students affected by sexual assault is staggering according to an internationally recognized student survey by The National College Health Assessment (NCHA) – an organization which collects data on students’ health and behaviour. The results say that one third of Mount Royal students had experienced some kind of violence in one or multiple relationships.
Worried you’re not in the right program? You’re not alone
The leaves crunch under your boots as you walk to campus, your homework is piling up and you’re certain the student just ahead of you is sipping a pumpkin spiced latte. The fall semester is kicking off and hundreds of new and returning students just like yourself are grappling with the heavy plate of being a student – planning out academic careers, paving a path to eventually join the workforce and juggling tuition costs.
While some know exactly the career path they aim to pursue, others are justifying pouring their dollars into tuition only to find out their program isn’t the right fit for them. So how do you pick a program? Four students share their thoughts on the importance of open studies.
Stephanie Nolan, a Drama major at the University of Alberta, believes that her ability to take open studies helped in her decision to pursue her passion. It also helped her explore other avenues that she may not have taken if she had focused solely on a major when she registered. “The benefits of taking open studies is that you can try out different things and it may spark your interest in a field that you’d never thought you’d want to pursue,” she says.
Jody Li, a fourth year General Sciences major at Mount Royal University, said that open studies helped her adjust properly to post-secondary education, helping her adjust to homework demands that were not so heavy in high school when she first came to Calgary. Though the courses Li took were put against her major that she knew she was going to be taking, it gave her a little bit of breathing room to adjust.
“I feel that the courses I took in the semester of open studies helped lead the way into my major, identifying myself with the professors and students I would have classes with later in the program,” says Li.
Matt Warren, a fourth year Business Administration major at Mount Royal University, believes that if he had taken open studies right out of high school it would have lead him in a different direction than what he decided on straight out of high school.
“The great thing about open studies is that you are allowed to explore classes that are common to your interests,” says Warren. “Open studies helps build your academic experience around what your interests are and helps you find out what your main interests are as you grow as a student.”
Warren spent five years at Queen’s University earning a Life Sciences degree, only to find out after graduation that it was something he did not wish to pursue outside of academia – a difficult realization for him. When he decided to return to University he chose open studies because he wasn’t restricted in the courses he could choose.
“I wanted to raise my GPA and have some options,” says Warren. He also found the experience refreshing that he could take a wide and diverse course workload and figure out what he was passionate about and what he wasn’t.