Campaign raising sexual violence awareness across Ontario goes viral

Samina Sami, executive director of York University’s Department of Community Safety, is a recipient of an Ontario Public Service (OPS) Amethyst Award for her work on the sexual violence bystander campaign #WhoWillYouHelp.

Samina Sami
Samina Sami

The award is the highest conferred to provincial civil servants and is presided over by the Secretary of Cabinet. Candidates are nominated by their fellow Ontario public servants and recipients are recommended by an independent selection committee appointed by the Secretary of Cabinet.

Sami was part of the team that led the multi-lingual public education campaign, #WhoWillYouHelp, under the Sexual Violence Action Plan.

In 2015, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Tracy MacCharles, launched the action plan “It’s Never Okay: Ontario’s Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment”.

The plan was designed to examine the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment in society, and confront the roots of rape culture and misogyny. It seeks to take action to challenge attitudes, behaviours, myths and stereotypes that normalize or trivialize sexual violence and harassment.

The edgy and thought-provoking #WhoWillYouHelp campaign spoke directly to bystanders and portrayed how individuals can help prevent sexual violence and harassment.

“By way of background, the campaign has been one of the most followed public education initiatives in the government’s history and this underscores the importance of sexual violence as a critical societal issue,” said Sami. The campaign was also ranked among the top 10 ads viewed on Facebook Canada and the hashtag reached more than 85 million people around the world..

Research conducted post-campaign shows that, among Ontarians who have seen the advertisements and website, there has been a strengthening of attitudes and opinions about what constitutes sexual harassment, violence and assault.

The action plan also included a commitment to host a summit in fall 2015 to discuss the latest and most effective national and international strategies to end sexual violence and harassment and improve supports for survivors.

Sami led the design of the provincial summit on sexual violence, and more than 700 national and international experts, frontline workers, community leaders and survivors of sexual violence gathered to discuss ways to raise awareness about this multi-faceted issue and create safer homes, workplaces, schools and communities.