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City of Cambridge Recommits to Being a Start by Believing Community

caution sign The information on this page may be outdated as it was published 2 years ago.

Photo of City of Cambridge leaders recommitting to Start by Believing Pledge

Led by the Cambridge Sexual Assault Response Team, the City of Cambridge is re-committing to its pledge to being a Start by Believing community. Start by Believing is an international public awareness campaign launched in 2011 by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI), a professional training organization that helps law enforcement and allied professionals improve their response to sexual assault and other gender-based crimes like Human Trafficking and Intimate Partner Violence.

Members of the Cambridge community are invited to join the Cambridge Sexual Assault Response Team, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui  and Cambridge City Council, City Manager Louis DePasquale and City Leadership, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), and other supporters for a Start by Believing pledge, proclamation reading, speaker series and photo opportunity on Wednesday, April 13, at 2:00 p.m., on the front steps of Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

Many survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse do not disclose their experience for fear of not being believed, self-blame, shame, and worry about the stigma of being labeled a victim. The Start by Believing campaign is designed to help change these perceptions. Knowing how to respond to a survivor when they come forward is critical, because a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment of lack of accountability for these crimes. The Start by Believing campaign helps stop this cycle of silence by improving personal and professional reactions. The timing of this campaign is crucial after two plus years of isolation and upheavals related to COVID-19. Survivors uniquely suffered during this time, and in many cases had to put their healing process on hold in order to focus on more immediate needs, such as food, shelter, and job security.

Start by Believing is a community-driven effort. To be effective, it requires the collaboration and commitment from local governments, law enforcement, community organizations, and community members themselves. When a City Starts by Believing, survivors receive trauma-informed reactions, support, and resources, all of which allow them to begin healing after an assault.

"As a Start by Believing community, we believe it is vitally important as a City to reaffirm our commitment to survivors of sexual assault and foster the safest and most supportive environment for any survivor,” said Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “We want all survivors to feel encouraged to step forward and experience how we are a city that is dedicated to transforming personal and professional responses to sexual assault. That commitment starts with the dedicated members and array of resources within the Cambridge Sexual Assault Response Team.”

BARCC Interim Executive Director Duane de Four shared, “To effectively support every survivor, we must use an inclusive approach that recognizes their multiple intersecting identities, including race, sex, ability, sexual orientiation, and immigration status. We are encouraged that The City and its many constituents, along with the Cambridge Police Department are focusing on these needs in their responses to sexual and gender-based violence. Given its goal of better supporting every survivor in the City of Cambridge, we are proud to be a partner in the Start by Believing campaign.”

“Every sexual assault patient deserves the best possible care, and that starts with being heard,” said Joan Meunier-Sham, Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program.  “Patients arriving at a hospital with chest pain or stroke symptoms are immediately believed and assured they will receive the care they need.  Sexual assault patients deserve that same level of care.”

The Cambridge Sexual Assault Response Team enables networking opportunities with partners, reviews best practices, and identifies gaps in services to create a seamless process for survivors as they navigate their way through the criminal justice system. Members of the Cambridge Sexual Assault Response Team include the Cambridge Police Department, Cambridge Emergency Communications, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Transition House, the City of Cambridge Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative, Cambridge Health Alliance, Mass Alliance of Portuguese Speakers, Mass Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, Victim Rights Law Center, De Novo Center for Justice & Healing, Saheli, Disabled Persons Protection Commission Sexual Assault Response team and others. This collaboration greatly helps the involved organizations better understand each other’s capabilities, policies and procedures. 

For more information about the Start by Believing Campaign, please visit https://www.startbybelieving.org

Start by Believing Flier (PDF Link)

Photo: City and community leaders recommit to Start by Believing Campaign with renewed pledge event on April 13, 2022.

Page was posted on 4/4/2022 11:10 AM
Page was last modified on 7/25/2023 4:16 AM
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