I know that Sexual Assault Awareness Month is over (it’s April), but the Start by Believing campaign is worth noting all year long. The campaign focuses on educating the public about how to react to the news of a loved one being sexually assaulted.
There is no shame when your loved one dies. When your car is stolen. When you’re diagnosed with cancer. Friends and loved ones gather around you for support. They don’t blame you for “bringing it on yourself.”
It should be the same with sexual violence. But all too often, survivors who have the courage to tell someone what happened are blamed for bringing it on themselves. This needs to change.
Start by Believing is a public awareness campaign designed to change the way we respond to rape and sexual assault in our communities.
This is a valuable campaign and it really speaks to the fears of survivors as well as their loved ones. I know that was one of the issues I faced when I first told people that I was sexually abused as a child. Sometimes the hardest part was dealing with the other person’s reaction! But what is brilliant about this campaign is that it acknowledges that being the recipient of such news is hard, too. And I think that’s often over-looked.
One of the most powerful things you can do is believe a survivor. It takes tremendous courage to tell your story. It took me more than a decade to overcome my anxiety, shame and anger about telling my story. And it’s still hard. Healing starts with small acts of kindness, love and generosity of spirit. And these acts happen in the one-on-one moments we have with the people we love. We can’t always prepare for these moments. But a good place to start is to Start by Believing.