If you Believe – Take the Pledge

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Start Believing- a practical plan to address victim blaming in sexual assault cases.

The issue of victim blaming in sexual assault cases is a complex and longstanding challenge in Canada, as it is in many other countries. However, there have been a number of efforts of late, to address this issue and provide better support for survivors of sexual assault. Here are some ways that Canada plans to address victim blaming:

  1. Training and education: Many organizations and groups are working to provide training and education to professionals who work with survivors of sexual assault, such as police officers, prosecutors, judges, and healthcare providers. This training can help to improve understanding of the issue of victim blaming and help professionals avoid engaging in victim blaming behavior.
  2. Improving police practices: In recent years, there have been efforts to improve the way that police handle sexual assault cases, including increasing the number of specialized sexual assault units and improving training for police officers. This can help ensure that police are better equipped to investigate sexual assault cases and are less likely to engage in victim blaming behavior.
  3. Legal changes: There have been ongoing efforts to change laws related to sexual assault in Canada in order to reduce the likelihood of victim blaming. For example, there have been efforts to update the definition of consent in Canadian law to make it clearer and to eliminate the “mistaken belief in consent” defense, which can be used to shift blame onto the victim.
  4. Public awareness campaigns: There have been a number of public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing victim blaming in sexual assault cases. These campaigns can help to shift public attitudes and increase understanding of the issue.
  5. Survivor-centered approach: Many organizations and groups are adopting a survivor-centered approach to working with survivors of sexual assault. This means placing the needs and experiences of the survivor at the center of the response, and working to ensure that they are provided with the support and resources they need.

Overall, addressing victim blaming in sexual assault cases is an ongoing and multifaceted challenge, and there is still much work to be done to ensure that survivors are treated with dignity and respect. However, there are a number of promising initiatives underway to address this issue and provide better support for survivors. One approach to address victim blaming that is spreading rapidly throughout the United States, Canada and here in Nova Scotia, is the Start by Believing Campaign.

Start by Believing is an international campaign organized by End Violence Against Women International, and can be described as a public awareness campaign that is uniquely focused on the public response to sexual assault. Once a survivor reports an assault, each individual’s personal reaction is the first step in a long path towards justice and healing.

Rapists attack an average of six times;

One failed response can equal five more victims.

Knowing how to respond in a positive, supportive way is critica as a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster and environment where perpetrators face zero consequence for their crimes.

  • Most survivors, 58-94%, seek help from family, friends first
  • Yet, only between 5-20% of survivors access formal support services.
  • Before reporting to law enforcement, sexual assault survivors contacted an average of 2-3 informal or formal supports first
  • Less than half seek medical care or obtain a medical forensic exam (estimated 27-40%)
  • Even less survivors seek and use mental health services (16-60%)

End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) created the Start Believing campaign with one goal in mind: to change outcomes for survivors, one response at a time. Their hope is to lead the way toward stopping the cycle of doubt by creating a positive community response, informing the public, uniting allies and supporters, and improving our personal reactions.is designed to prepare friends, family members, and professionals to respond positively to a disclosure of sexual assault victimization and to enhance well-being as much as possible and encourage both reporting and help-seeking among survivors.

We at Connect encourage all our members, and sister organizations to consider joining the Start Believing movement, here are some steps along the way;

  • Join a local Start Believing campaign by liking and following their efforts on social media so that you can keep up to date with the various events and campaigns that will be happening.
    • Join Nova Scotia’s own Avalon Centre on April 3 to Start By Believing. Take the pledge and post a selfie of yourself with it, including the hashtag #sbb
  • Rally others to take the Start by Believing Commitment, pledging to believe survivors when they come forward so that as a community we can provide them with better support and increase the likelihood that they will receive justice.
  • You can share your story, as Start by Believing works to create a network of survivors and community members who bring awareness to victim blaming and support survivors.
  • You can also order official materials to display at your office, or download graphics to snazz up your emails, social media, and make your own publications.
  • Get social! Take some selfies or group shots with customized Start by Believing placards (in English and Spanish), and post ’em on your social media pages with the hashtag #StartbyBelieving.
  • Take advantage of any of the available EVAWI ACTION KITS that are tailored or specific groups and filled with examples from other communities.