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Campaign Launch
updated: Jan 22, 2013, 2:09 PM

Source: SLO Sheriff's Department

Numerous local criminal justice and community agencies have partnered to launch a unique public awareness campaign in San Luis Obispo County that focuses on improving the public response to sexual assault.

The campaign is called Start by Believing, because a friend or family member is typically the first person a victim confides in after an assault, and each person's reaction is the first step in a long path toward justice and healing. Knowing how to respond is critical-a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where sexual assault predators face zero consequences for their crimes.

Research documents that rapists attack an average of six times, which means that one failed response can equal five more victims. Start by Believing will lead the way toward stopping this cycle, by creating a positive community response, informing the public, uniting allies and supporters, and improving our personal reactions. The goal is to change our community and outcomes for victims, one response at a time.

The campaign will officially launch on February 1 and event organizers are calling the community to action. Official Start By Believing proclamations will be made by the City of San Luis Obispo, City of Atascadero, City of Morro Bay, SLO County Board of Supervisors, City of Grover Beach, City of Paso Robles, and the City of Pismo Beach. Organizers have also launched a social media campaign on Facebook and encourage the community to visit the Facebook page and upload their photos in support of the campaign.

"Victims of sexual crimes often choose to simply live with what happened rather than tell someone or ask for help…we are committed to doing our part to make it easier for victims to come forward," said SLO Chief of Police Steve Gesell.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson expressed similar support; "We are dedicated to supporting the victims of these crimes and breaking down communication barriers and stigmas…to successfully hold those who are responsible for these intolerable crimes accountable."

As Cal Poly University Police Department Chief George Hughes stated, "It is time for everyone to work together to raise awareness, take action, and help protect our community from sexual violence."

The Start By Believing campaign was developed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) and is being implemented locally by the following community partners: Cal Poly SAFER, Sexual Assault Recovery & Prevention (SARP) Center, North County Women's Shelter & Resource Center, Women's Shelter Program of SLO County, Suspected Abuse Response Team (SART) at the County Public Health Department, SLO Police Department, SLO County Sheriff's Office, SLO County District Attorney's Office, Atascadero Police Department, City of Grover Beach Police, Cal Poly Police Department, Pismo Beach Police Department, Morro Bay Police Department, Paso

Robles Police and California Department of Mental Health Police.

The campaign was made possible with generous support from local sponsors: Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, Carmel & Naccasha Attorneys at Law, French Hospital Medical Center, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, New Times and Verdin.

Other communities that launched the Start By Believing campaign saw an increase in reported sexual assaults and survivors seeking services. The agencies involved in launching the campaign in SLO County are prepared to respond to survivors in our county. If you or anybody you know has been sexually assaulted, help and resources are available 24-hours a day by calling the SARP Center at (805) 545-8888 or 1-800-656- HOPE.

For more information, please visit www.startbybelieving.org or www.sarpcenter.org. Join the movement locally and get updates at www.facebook.com/StartByBelieving.

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About the SARP Center of SLO County and North County Women's Shelter & Resource Center (NCWS): On January 1, 2013, the SARP Center and NCWS merged into a new organization serving both victims of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as their loved ones. The merger is an important step in providing comprehensive services to victims of violence in our community. Both agencies have served the community for more than 30 years, and their services include a 24-hour crisis line, prevention education, crisis intervention, case management, restraining order assistance, advocacy, two safe houses and counselling services.

About End Violence Against Women International & Start By Believing: End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the criminal justice and community response to gender-based violence. EVAWI developed the Start By Believing awareness campaign to be utilized in communities like San Luis Obispo for their own local efforts.

 

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