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DSU Police encourage students to Start by Believing survivors of sexual assault

Joining the Dixie State University Police Department’s effort to continually improve and enhance how sexual assault cases are investigated, Dixie State students, faculty and staff signed the Start by Believing pledge in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Start by Believing, an international public awareness campaign launched by End Violence Against Women International in 2011, aims to change how society responds to disclosures of sexual assault. The campaign is designed to change the trend of victims of sexual assault not reporting the crime to law enforcement, often because of the responses they receive from friends and family members.

“Taking part in the Start by Believing campaign allows us to set an example in our DSU community that shows when someone is sexually assaulted, we will start by believing the victim, and you should too,” Dixie State Chief of Police Blair Barfuss said. “This message does not change the perspective of objectivity required to be a credible professional nor does our involvement change our intention to conduct a thorough investigation.”

Prior cases indicate that when survivors are initially challenged, accused of lying or their behavior is questioned as contributing to the event, they will often be unable or unwilling to provide law enforcement with the information needed to successfully investigate the case.

“A thorough investigation must ensure that the person is treated professionally and with compassion and respect instead of explicitly or implicitly communicating the message that I don't believe you,” Barfuss said.

Because rapists attack an average of six times, one failed response can equal five more victims. The Start by Believing campaign leads the way toward stopping this cycle by creating a positive community response, informing the public and uniting allies.

“Because the first person a victim confides in is usually a friend or family member, how they react determines in large part what happens next. A positive reaction can improve victims’ well-being and increase the chances they will report to law enforcement and reach out for help from other sources,” Joanne Archambault, founder and CEO of EVAWI, said. “Start by Believing is a philosophy that has been adopted by hundreds of communities in the U.S. and around the world.”

To see photos of those who have pledged to Start by Believing, visit Dixie State University Police Department’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dsupolice or visit www.startbybelieving.org for more information about the Start by Believing Campaign.