A simple way to make an impact

The Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services wants allies to know the part they can play.

Earlier this month, the 20th anniversary edition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak was released.

First published in 1999, the book follows high school freshman Melinda Sordino through her tumultuous first year of high school as she slowly ceases communicating verbally with just about everyone in her life. It’s gripping, visceral and even darkly funny, and it holds up remarkably well for being 20 years old. In fact, given the subject matter, a re-release in 2019 seems especially appropriate: Melinda was raped the summer prior to high school, and is struggling to find her voice.

Giving a voice to survivors has become a major focus in various aspects of culture. Recent history has shown that when survivors feel empowered to speak up, change happens. From Anthony Rapp and Terry Crews to Christine Blasey Ford and the women featured in Surviving R. Kelly, the key role that survivors play in helping bring justice cannot be understated.

But under-reporting is still a major problem, especially among male victims of assault. So the biggest question remains: how do we encourage more people to speak up?

The Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services have issued a new ad, with creative handled by agency InfinityComm, that helps friends, family and peers know what part they can play. Putting the onus on survivors alone to tell their stories is one thing, but this ad shows allies that they can make a difference with three simple words: “I believe you.”

The ad, which features no dialogue, will likely bring a tear to your eye. It perfectly captures the fear and hesitation many have with speaking up, but goes on to show the relief and gratitude when someone they’re opening up to shows that they’re listening and they believe them.

It also gets big points for featuring a diverse group of actors, including a male survivor telling his story to a male partner.

Beyond the emotional impact of the ad, it dispenses solid tangible advice – informing viewers that they can do more than just say the words “I believe you.” Supportive actions like a hug or displays of active listening also make the admission easier.

Finally, beyond “I believe you,” the ad gets in one other crucial point: “And it’s not your fault.”

The full “#IBelieveYou” campaign kicks off in May.

According to AASAS, the annual campaign, which has been running since 2015, has resulted in changes toward people’s outlooks (survey results showed that from pre-campaign to 2017, the number of people who would say “I believe you” in response to an assault survivor has risen from less than 1% to 21%, and people who would say “It’s not your fault” have risen from 21% to 72%). There has also been a 20% increase of sexual assault reporting in Calgary and a 13% increase in Edmonton, and AASAS new clients have gone up by 53%.


Client: Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services
Agency: InfinityComm
Partner: Government of Alberta, Squeeze CMM, Conacher Hockey, Charles, Neuwald, BCL, LLB
Media partners: Pattison Outdoor, XL103.1 FM, 90.3 Amp, 104.9 FM Virgin Radio, CTV