The University of Guelph will join campuses across Ontario Sept. 20 in saying “We Believe You” to drive awareness and show support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
#WeBelieveYou day will engage the broader U of G campus community with the commitment that when a survivor of sexual and gender-based violence discloses their experience, we believe them.
The #IBelieveYou campaign was created by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services in 2015 to promote public support for survivors and has since grown to unite campuses and communities across the country, building solidarity with survivors.
“On #WeBelieveYou day, we are joining together to let survivors know that what happened to them was not their fault, that we believe them and we are here for them,” said Melissa Conte, sexual and gender-based violence support coordinator.
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Students disproportionately impacted by sexual violence
More than 70 per cent of students have experienced or witnessed unwanted sexual behaviours at a post-secondary institution, according to data from 2020. Statistics show one in three women, one in two trans/non-binary people and one in six men experience sexual assault or sexual abuse in their lifetime.
Survivors are often afraid to disclose their experiences for fear of not being believed, or being blamed, which results in just six per cent of sexual assaults being reported to law enforcement in Canada.
“When we invalidate survivors’ experiences, we normalize sexual violence and create barriers for seeking supports they deserve to access. We all have a role to play in preventing violence and supporting survivors, and today that can start with simply letting survivors know, ‘I believe you,’” Conte added.
Join U of G on Johnston Green for #WeBelieveYou day
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, campus members are invited to join representatives from the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Office and the Sexual Assault Free Environment Peer Team (SAFE) on Johnston Green from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
A resource table outlining the supports and education available at U of G will be on site. Attendees will be invited to write a love letter to survivors to be displayed on campus. Supporters are also encouraged to create a social media post or video of what #WeBelieveYou day means to them and share it using the hashtag and tagging @wellness_uofg on Twitter or Instagram.
A free virtual lunch and learn Sept. 21 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. will discuss to how to provide survivor-centric and trauma-informed support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Please register for the lunch and learn here.
Students, staff and faculty can expand their knowledge about sexual and gender-based violence by completing the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Awareness and Training Module and the Sexual Violence Support Module via Courselink.
Other learning opportunities are available through the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Office.
Centring survivors and the importance of sexual violence education
“The Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Education and Support Centre is survivor-centric; this means that believing survivors is foundational to all of our work,” said Jensen Williams, sexual and gender-based violence education coordinator.
“By saying ‘I believe you’ or ‘what happened was not your fault,’ we instantly create possibilities for healing, support and safety,” Williams said. “We hope that #WeBelieveYou day also educates the campus about our office and where to seek support when needed.”
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual or gender-based violence, you are not alone, and support is available. You can connect with the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Support Coordinator following experiences of sexual assault and other violence.
Consultation services are also available for faculty and staff responding to disclosures of sexual and gender-based violence by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
You do not need to disclose or make a report in order to access support.
Students are welcome to bring a support person with them to the planning or support meeting.
For more information about the support available at U of G, visit wellness.uoguelph.ca/sexual-violence-support.