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Start by Believing

By Megan Alpert and Mike Rager

Survivors of sexual assault deserve our care and support, and the first – and often best –  thing any of us can do is Start by Believing.

 
When I started working in advocacy, I heard more stories than you can count about the horrible things people can do to others. Not all of these stories were only about the crimes that had been committed against the survivors I was working with. I will never forget Janine*. When Janine came into my office, she was 40 years old and out of ideas for how to cope. She asked me if she had to tell me her story. I told her no. She asked if she could tell me her story. I said yes.

 

Janine shared that she had been sexually assaulted when she was 18 years old by someone in a position of power over her. When she went to her best friend the next day and told her what had happened, her friend didn’t believe her. “What were you wearing?” she asked. “Why were you there? I told you to stop being such a tease.” Janine didn’t know what to say. She knew her friend cared about her and would never intentionally hurt her, but she felt like she had been violated all over again. She chose not to tell anyone, or even think about it, until 20 years later when she finally had the courage to reach out for help.

 

Standing beside her as she walked through the process of reporting the offender, slowly open up as she was comfortable with other support resources and watching her face and her whole demeanor begin to relax when she met person after person who told her that they believed her was more awe-inspiring than I can truly describe. Survivors deserve our care and support and the first – and often best –  thing any of us can do is Start by Believing.

 

The Start by Believing campaign was started by End Violence Against Women International to raise awareness around victim blaming – both intentional and unintentional – and to highlight the importance of starting any and all interactions with survivors from a position of credibility. In this way, officials associated with the criminal or conduct process, advocates, friends, family and significant others can encourage and empower survivors in choosing the right path of healing for them.

 

*Survivor name changed for privacy reasons.

 

To learn more about the national Start by Believing campaign, please visit www.startbybelieving.org.

To learn more about getting involved with, or accessing support resources, please contact any of the following offices.

Confidential resources (refers to individuals who may not share information without your expressed consent unless there is imminent danger to yourself or others, or as required by law):

The Phoenix Center at Auraria
Tivoli Student Union, Suite 259
For appointments or information: 303-315-7250
24/7 free and confidential helpline: 303-315-7323

Counseling Center
Tivoli Student Union, Suite 651
For appointments: 303-615-9988
After hours crisis support and victim assistance: 303-352-4455

Health Center at Auraria
Plaza Building, Suite 150
For appointments: 303-556-2525
After hours crisis support and victim assistance: 303-352-4455

 

Non-confidential reporting options (refers to individuals who share information on a need-to-know basis or as required by law. The information may be shared only with individuals involved in a case):

Office of Equal Opportunity
Student Success Building, Room 440
303-556-4746

Dean of Students Office
Tivoli Student Union, Suite 311
303-615-0220

Auraria Campus Police Department
Administration Building, Suite 110
303-556-5000

 


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