By Scott Strasser, September 27 2016 —
About 20 University of Calgary students took part in filming a public service announcement for the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) in Edmonton on Sept. 23.
The video was created for the “I Believe You” campaign, an initiative aimed at changing the culture of how people respond to sexual assault victims in Alberta.
The students boarded a bus at the U of C at 7:30 in the morning on Friday and came back to Calgary in the late afternoon.
“I wanted to be a part of this program, as I had never had any chance to learn about these issues,” said geography masters student Prasamsa Thapa, who took part in the trip to Edmonton.
The “I Believe You” campaign is now in its second year.
“Last year we focused on educating Albertans on how very important it is to give a positive response to a disclosure of sexual assault — specifically to say ‘I believe you’,” AASAS Chief Executive Officer Deb Tomlinson said. “This year, what we’re focusing on is celebrating the many people in Alberta who are believing and supporting sexual assault victims.”
The AASAS video focuses on two female hockey players supporting each other in an arena after one of them was sexually assaulted. The video pans out to show all her teammates — as well as the entire arena — supporting the victim.
To film the video, AASAS rented out Kenilworth Arena in Edmonton, which seats 325 people.
“[The video is] really celebrating the cultural change that we’re experiencing right now away from justifying and minimizing sexual assault and towards believing and supporting survivors,” Tomlinson said.
The Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club (CASE) supported the filming of the PSA.
“We are so thankful for [AASAS)]and all the hard work they did putting this campaign together,” CASE president Nancy Regular said. “A culture where survivors feel believed and supported helps to break the silence that often surrounds sexual assault.”
The U of C supported the “I Believe You” campaign last year as well. U of C Faculty of Science dean Lesley Rigg, who is also a co-chair on the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual violence implementation committee, said the university is committed to creating a welcoming campus for everyone.
“We’re committed to creating a place where sexual harassment and sexual violence is not tolerated,” Rigg said. “The ‘I Believe You’ campaign is a cross-provincial initiative where we can show our support and commitment to our community.”
The filming of the PSA occurred two weeks after the U of C’s Women’s Resource Centre unofficially broke a Guinness World Record for the largest ever game of Red Light, Green Light. The game was part of the WRC’s wider sexual consent and awareness project “Ask First: Creating a Culture of Consent.”
Tomlinson said events like the Red Light, Green Light game and the filming of the PSA show Alberta universities have recently done well to address sexual assault issues.
“We’ve had a tremendous response from post-secondaries, from student executives, from teams on campus and from other people from all walks of life,” she said. “I’m actually really proud of the post-secondary institutions in our province and the response they have provided.”