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Believing is a powerful defence against sexual assault

  • Sexual assault is a severely under-reported crime—up to 97% of assaults are never reported to police. Many survivors never tell even a friend or family member (1).
  • This low rate of reporting dramatically affects the safety and health of our entire community—because people who need help don’t get it—and because offenders keep offending.
  • The #IBelieveYou campaign is educating responders as a form of prevention. People who receive a positive response are more likely to get help, seek justice, and help stop the cycle of abuse.

Why is believing so powerful?

  • One of the most effective threats assailants can make against victims is to warn them to keep quiet—“because no one will believe you.” This is a lie that we are addressing head on.
  • 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. Try saying I’m sorry that happened, it’s not your fault, and I believe you—the three words survivors most need to hear.
  • By framing a better and more consistently positive response to sexual assault, we’re creating an environment where survivors feel safe to tell and offenders are less likely to get away with a crime.
  • The justice system is there to be impartial so that friends and family don’t have to be. An important step toward finding truth and justice is to start by believing.

By the numbers

  • According to Canada's most recent General Social Survey, 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 7000 assaults per month (2).
  • Sexual assault can have long term effects on a person’s life, including issues related to mental and physical health, education, income, and jobs.
  • The direct costs of sexual assault are estimated to be more than $546 million a year. That number rises to nearly $2 billion if pain and suffering are calculated (3).

What else can you do?

  • 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 by clicking here. For help in other Provinces and Territories, click here.
  • 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.

Downloadable campaign content

  • Click here to access downloadable campaign content.



AASAS Member Agency Initiatives:

SAFFRON Centre is hosting a screening of The Hunting Ground, Monday September 21st, 12:30 p.m. at Galaxy Cinemas in Sherwood Park, AB.  Please click here for more information.

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