April is sexual assault awareness month and as Hillsborough County’s only certified rape crisis center, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is using this time to highlight the international #StartByBelieving campaign. I know you are wondering why so I want to provide you with some startling statistics:
• Did you know that the Crisis Center performs nearly a rape exam a day??
• Did you also know that as few as one in five rape victims report their sexual assault?
• Why so few, you ask??
Because even in the light of the #MeToo movement, too many victims of sexual violence are afraid to come forward for this simple reason – “I’m afraid no one will believe me”.
The Start By Believing movement began in April 2015 when a Utah state representative sponsored a resolution creating a message of support for survivors. The goal of this movement is to provide opportunities for communities across the county, and the world, to unify with a single voice for those who have been victims of sexual violence (
Across our community, the Crisis Center has been working to bring awareness and create change. Our sexual assault advocates and volunteers work with our local neighborhoods, churches, social service agencies, law enforcement, business and civic leaders to educate on the importance of encouraging sexual violence survivors to come forward by BELIEVING them. We provide tools and the language our community members can use to support a victim as she or he discloses sexual violence.
So this April, think about what you can do to support and encourage your friends, family members and coworkers to think about sexual violence differently. When you hear “locker room talk”, read disparaging posts on social media or watch news accounts on TV, think about what you can do to dispel the myths, stigma and stereotypes often associated with sexual assault. And, when someone you know or love comes to you with their experience of sexual violence, please, #StartByBelieving.