On Dec. 17, Gov. Susana Martinez issued a proclamation declaring January 2015 to be “Start by Believing Victims of Sexual Assault Month” in New Mexico.
On Jan. 30, at 2 p.m., Gov. Martinez will appear at the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico in Albuquerque to promote the Start by Believing Campaign. The goal is for New Mexico to become a Start by Believing State because, as the governor writes in the proclamation, “We know that if we improve the responses of friends, family members, and community professionals when victims report sexual assaults, more victims will seek out resources and move forward in their lives.”
What makes this idea so important is that victims of sexual violence often first talk with family or friends after being assaulted. When the victims are met with doubt, they are unlikely to ever try to tell another person about the assault or to get help. People who are believed when they first disclose assault are more likely to get medical, mental health, and spiritual support to help heal from the trauma. Starting by believing can be difficult, especially because in more than 80 percent of sexual assaults, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.
Not believing a sexual assault victim actually leads to more sexual assaults. Also a victim who is not believed when she first discloses is less likely to report the crime. When a perpetrator’s name is disclosed to law enforcement, they may be able to solve and prosecute other cases by the same offender, preventing future rapes.
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