Take the Pledge and Start By Believing to End the Silence of Sexual Assault

A number of SRPMIC departments including the Social Service Department handed out promotional items and information to SRPMIC members who attended the Start By Believing to end the silence of sexual assault drive-thru event.

On Wednesday, October 6, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Family Advocacy Center held a drive-thru event to continue their Start By Believing campaign to promote awareness on ending the cycle of silence and transform the way we respond to sexual assault. The event took place in the Two Waters employee parking lot; cars lined up to take the pledge, receive information from a number of SRPMIC tribal departments and get promotional items. 

The Start By Believing campaign began in April to raise awareness of sexual assault cases in the Community. This global campaign was created by the organization End Violence Against Women International to help transform the way we respond to sexual assault as a society. 

Community Health Educator Vurlene Notsinneh-Bowekaty handed out information on how to spot domestic violence in a relationship and let people know about upcoming events for domestic violence awareness. 

“It’s a campaign to educate individuals on how they can break the silence and how to better respond when an aunt, niece, cousin, daughter or son comes forward [to say] they were sexually assaulted. [We ask ourselves], how can I hold that space for them differently so that they feel heard and supported?” said SRPMIC Family Advocacy Center Director Carol Colmenero. 

Often, those who disclose that they have been victims of sexual assault feel like they are not being heard and supported. 

Family Advocacy Trauma Therapist Arlena Moreno and SRPD Detective Julian Owens get ready to hand out goodies to SRPMIC families. 

“They often shut down and not say anything else, and what ends up happening is they never receive justice because they felt like they were not going to be believed or someone would accuse them of lying,” said Colmenero. “This campaign is [designed] to end the silence of sexual assault and change how we are responding to individuals that disclose to us.”

The Family Advocacy Center sees this campaign as an opportunity to educate the Community about ending the silence and breaking the cycle of sexual assault. If someone says they have been sexually assaulted, as the campaign says, start by believing them. The Family Advocacy Center hopes to keep the campaign going forever and help families be able to talk about this issue and heal. 

At the event, families made their way through different tents and received information and promotional items. They took the pledge to start by believing, and their pledges were placed on a banner hanging up at the end of the drive-thru. The pledge stated: “I am pledging today to end the silence of sexual assault and start by believing. When someone discloses to me, I am going to believe them and I am going to let them know I believe them.” 

“It’s important for our culture to talk about abuse. I think that’s the biggest problem that we have come through the Family Advocacy Center—families don’t want to hear about what goes on behind closed doors. I think our culture needs to open those doors and talk about it.” – Victim Advocate Mannalle Davis

“When you believe a survivor of sexual assault, they are more likely to move forward in healing and getting justice for themselves,” said Colmenero. In addition, convicting a perpetrator of sexual assault means fewer victims in the future.

For more information on services offered by the Family Advocacy Center, call (480) 362-5425. For more information on the Start By Believing campaign, visit www.startbybelieving.org.

SRPMIC members take the pledge to Start by Believing to end silence of sexual assaults.

“If someone came up to me and told me [sexual assault] was happening to them, I would believe them, because it’s not right if someone is ignored. There are different ways they can stand up and help other victims of sexual assault too.” – Jr. Miss Salt River Robin Ramirez

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