City of Cambridge Commits to being a "Start by Believing Community"

Cambridge, MA, April 2, 2019 – Led by the Cambridge Sexual Assault Team, the City of Cambridge today announced that it is committed 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 Marc C. McGovern and the Cambridge City Council, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and the city’s leadership, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), State Representative Marjorie Decker, and other supporters for a Start by Believing pledge, proclamation reading, speaker series and group photo on Wednesday, April 10, at 12 p.m., on the front steps of Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. 


Following the kickoff pledge event, the City of Cambridge will help put the pledge into action by hosting the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to offer an educational workshop for all Cambridge community members on Wednesday, May 1, from 6-8 p.m., 7 Temple St., Second Floor Library, Cambridge.  Learn how to respond when someone shares that they are a survivor of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment. Food will be provided. RSVP is requested but not required to espeakman@cambridgema.gov.


Many survivors of sexual assault do not disclose their experience because of 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 this. Knowing how to respond is critical, because a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment of lack of accountability for these crimes. Start by Believing helps stop this cycle of silence by improving personal and professional reactions.


“Start by Believing is an important initiative that has been adopted by hundreds of communities in the U.S. and around the world,” said Elizabeth Speakman, Coordinator of the City of Cambridge’s Office of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention. “By supporting this initiative, we are communicating that Cambridge cares about survivors of sexual assault and that the community is committed to providing a supportive and compassionate response to all disclosures. We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual assault to connect with a trusted friend or family member as well as the various resources within the Cambridge Sexual Assault Response Team.” 


BARCC Executive Director Gina Scaramella shared, “As the rape crisis center serving survivors in the City of Cambridge, we are committed to helping improve the city-wide response to survivors. They and their families benefit from caring, compassionate interactions and clear communication about their options. We are proud to be a partner in the Start by Believing campaign to promote every survivor in the City of Cambridge receiving this supportive response.”


“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.”


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

 

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About Cambridge Sexual Assault Team:

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, the Transition House, the City of Cambridge Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative, the Victim Resource Center at Cambridge Health Alliance, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, De Novo, Mass Alliance of Portuguese Speakers, Mass Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, On the Rise, Victim’s Rights Law Center, the Community Legal Services & Counseling Center (CLSACC) and others. This collaboration greatly helps the involved organizations better understand each other’s capabilities, policies. and procedures.