Saturday, 12 September 2015 07:00

SE Alta. on board with #Ibelieveyou campaign

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Jamie-Lee Danielsen, Richelle Oerlemans, Christina Johnson. Jamie-Lee Danielsen, Richelle Oerlemans, Christina Johnson. Photo contributed

A provincial campaign using three simple words has a simple goal: help people know how to react to victims of sexual assault. It will also become a prevalent topic of discussion and an awareness campaign next week.


Jamie-Lee Danielsen, Community Education and Network Navigation Specialist, Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC)  for Southeastern Alberta will have a table set up at the Medicine Hat College as the Students Association there is promoting Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week from Sept. 15-17 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. each of those days.
The Sexual Assault Response  Committee for Southeastern Alberta will be taking the opportunity to bring a booth, all of the SARC brochures, the #Ibelieveyou video, stickers, tattoos and will be encouraging people to be part of the #Ibelieveyou hash-tag twitter campaign.
Danielsen is using the opportunity to promote the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) #Ibelieveyou campaign which is meant to help those who want to assist a victim of sexual assault on what to say. She says a lot of times people will say the wrong things.
"People don't understand the impact of words and what they can do," explains Danielsen of those who are talking to or dealing with victims of sexual assault. "This campaign is to promote the fact and get across to the victims 'it's not your fault it happened."
She adds the big reason they wanted to be part of the college campaign was "that most victims are women and they are the most vulnerable at college. Hopefully, what we have to present sticks with people."
According to the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, their #Ibelieveyou campaign is critical to get the public to understand because of the high numbers of assaults which go on in Alberta and in Canada. According to the AASAS website, Canada’s most recent General Social Survey, indicated there are 24 sexual assaults per year for every thousand people over the age of 15 in Canada. That means that based on Alberta’s population at the time, there are about 7,000 assaults per month.
The direct costs of sexual assault are estimated to be more than $546 million a year across Canada. That number rises to nearly $2 billion if pain and suffering are calculated. Of those, the AASAS says 997 out of every 1,000 assailants walk free.
With the phrase "I believe you" it is defusing one of the most effective threats assailants can make against victims is to warn them to keep quiet—“because no one will believe you.”
"Responders are often afraid of saying the wrong thing, and creating more harm with their words. Most will try to give advice (get help) or ask questions (tell me what happened), but a positive response is most helpful," a AASAS release says. "Try saying, ‘I’m sorry that happened’, ‘it’s not your fault’, and ‘I believe you’— the three words survivors most need to hear."
Danielsen says the campaign works well with what the Sexual Assault Response Committee (Southeastern Alberta) is trying to accomplish.
She says they try to be a resource for those needing information, advice and statistics on the subject.
They do presentations for secondary schools for everyone all the way from Kindergarten through to grade 12 and they also help with different events and local campaigns such as the hugely successful Walk a Mile in Her Shoes where men walk a mile in high heel shoes to help bring attention to the problem and tragedy of sexual violence.
Danielsen is proud of the work SARC does collectively. It’s a "team effort" to get to as many schools as they do.
"It's a challenge with only three of us," says Danielsen who tries to make themselves available to all city and regional schools to help deliver different messages or informative talks.
"We are trying to hit all of the classes, regardless of where we we're trying to get the word out.”
Visit the Sexual Assault Response Committee for Southeastern Alberta website at http://www.mhsarc.com, or the AASAS website: ibelieveyou.info

Other tips from AASAS
• Avoid asking “why” questions because they may sound accusatory. Avoid blaming in any way.
• Give contact information for a local sexual assault centre. In Alberta, free and confidential services can be found at http://aasas.ca/get-help/.
• If the sexual assault is recent, ask if s/he would like to be treated for sexually transmitted infections or possible pregnancy.
• Reporting to police is optional, and there is no time limit on reporting. Respect their decision, whatever it may be.
• If the individual is over 18, reporting to police is optional, and there is no time limit on reporting. Respect their decision, whatever it may be.
• However, you have a legal obligation to report the sexual abuse of a child to the authorities. If you’re unsure about who to call, you can call your local sexual assault service for referral information. do not contact parents if their child discloses sexual abuse; you must always contact the authorities first.
• Take care of yourself. It‘s never easy to hear that someone you care about has been sexually assaulted. It can also be confusing if you know both people involved. Find someone to talk to about your feelings, such as an expert at a sexual assault service.
• Take First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training.  For upcoming trainings and to register click here.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor

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