• May 24th, 2024
  • Friday, 11:15:56 PM

Denver Encourages All to Start by Believing Victims of Sexual Assault

The Blue Bench’s third annual RISE Survivor Art Show is filled with art pieces created by survivors of sexual assault and is on display until April 28. /La tercera exposición anual de arte RISE Survivor de The Blue Bench. (Foto: Ble Bench)


Last week marked the internationally recognized Start by Believing day, which is a day to encourage everyone to Start by Believing victims of sexual assault – as they would believe any other victim of crime. On April 3, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas, Denver Health Forensic Nurse Program Manager Michelle Metz, The Blue Bench Co-Director Client Services Laura Patlan, and three brave survivors, gathered to encourage everyone to start by believing victims and survivors of sexual assault.


Officials and survivors of sexual assault stood together last week to share what happens when victims are believed, while also promoting The Blue Bench’s third annual RISE Survivor Art Show. The RISE Survivor Art Show is filled with art pieces created by survivors of sexual assault. The art show opened on April 5, to the public at RemainReal Fine Art gallery at 901 Santa Fe Drive, and is on display until April 28.


“Research has shown that two out of every three sexual assault incidents are not reported to police, and this lack of reporting allows offenders an opportunity to reoffend,” said District Attorney McCann. “We know many victims don’t report because they don’t think they will be believed. Our office always starts by believing victims, and we provide the support they need as we focus on holding offenders accountable.”


One in two women, one in three men, and one in two trans-/nonbinary individuals will experience some form of completed or attempted sexual assault within their lifetimes. With this horrifying reality, it is likely that everyone knows someone who was or will be sexually assaulted. Being sexually assaulted can have a devastating impact on survivors and their reasons for not sharing they were sexually assaulted vary. However, should a victim choose to disclose their experience, a negative, dismissive, or unsupportive reaction from someone they tell can stop them from seeking and receiving the help they need.


This is why the City of Denver and partners continue to create awareness around the importance of believing victims of sexual assault and encourage the community to research this important issue so that they are prepared with a supporting response – should someone disclose they were sexually assaulted.


Research shows that if a victim is believed, it increases the likelihood of them receiving the help they need. This can be contacting a victim’s advocate, such as The Blue Bench, having a SANE kit completed by Denver Health, and/or reporting it to Denver Police, who investigate and then work with the Denver District Attorney’s Office to hold offenders accountable.


“The Denver Police Department recognizes that survivors may not want to report their sexual assault to law enforcement – and we support their decision,” said Chief Thomas. “However, we strongly encourage that they reach out to an advocacy group to receive the help they need, and if the time comes where they do want to report it to police, the Denver Police Department starts by believing.”


Research also shows victims of sexual assault typical tell a friend or family member first of their sexual assault. While the City of Denver and partners are committed to believing survivors, it is encouraged that everyone starts by believing. If someone says they were robbed, they are typically met with compassion and support. The same reaction and response should be shared when someone says they were sexually assaulted.


“Denver Health realizes that coming forward after a sexual assault can be difficult and they do their best to get rid of any barriers a patient may face coming to the hospital,” said Metz. “Patients are met with care and respect; their options are explained, and their decisions honored. Starting by believing means that patients are treated with respect and empathy to ensure they get the care they need and deserve.”


With 90-98% of rape reports being true – similar to other reports of crime – it is highly unlikely that someone is lying when they say they were sexually assaulted. This is another reason why believing is important. There are many resources for information seekers, including how best to respond, which can be simply saying “I believe you” or “I am sorry”. For additional positive ways to respond and for resources for victims and survivors, please visit www.Denvergov.org/StartbyBelieving; The Blue Bench – Sexual Assault Hotline – 303-322-7273/ Español  303-329-0031; Denver Health Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners – 303-602-3007; and Denver Police Victim Assistance Unit – 720-913-6035.


“Start by believing means putting survivors first, supporting them with the advocacy, support, and justice they seek in order to heal and move beyond their assault,” said Megan Carvajal, Executive Director of The Blue Bench. “We stand with our partners in this work to be a positive change for addressing violent crimes of sexual assaults.”


In Denver’s tenth year of participating in this educational campaign, the message is the same – believe victims of sexual assault. The Start by Believing campaign was developed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI). Also, throughout the month of April, DPD will share information on the importance of believing, consent and other sexual assault awareness information on Facebook.com/denverpolice and Instagram.com/denverpolice pages.