Students at Red Deer College are pledging to stand up and show support for survivors of sexual assault.
During a special event on RDC campus last Monday the College, the RDC Students’ Association and the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) announced the launch of the #IBelieveYou campaign on campus.
The province-wide initiative, which is in its second year, is spearheaded by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services with support from the Government of Alberta and encourages survivors of sexual assault to share their stories and to educate responders about the power of compassionate response.
Sharon Poole, manager of the RDC Counselling and Career Centre, said the main goal of the campaign at RDC is to show support to survivors.
“Students sometimes don’t know that supports exist. Certainly as sensitive a topic as sexual assault, people definitely feel alone. So we wanted to convey to students that there are supports and people who care in the community and on campus,” Poole explained.
According to RDCSA President Maryanne McGrath, the Students’ Association had six individuals come forward with stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“It’s definitely a problem. Knowing that even in a school of 7,000 people, those six people need others to stand up for them and we also need to stand up for people who don’t necessarily go and report and share their stories,” McGrath said, adding the #IBelieveYou campaign aims to empower students to be able to take that stand.
“It’s a problem that we all face in the demographic of students at post secondary. So we’re hoping to make a difference and make a change today and encourage people to come out and express their stories and share that they believe survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence and that they’re willing to support them.”
Patricia Arango, the executive director of the CASASC said the number of unreported cases of sexual assault in Central Alberta is “scary,” she said.
According to Arango, just 10% of cases of sexual assault in Central Alberta are reported.
“It’s so many different reasons. It’s not the same as domestic violence but they have many different reasons and very personal reasons but one is because people don’t believe them,” she said.
To raise awareness for the campaign, two different pledge forms will be displayed at various points throughout the campus as a visual acknowledgement there are people who are willing to support victims on campus.