Start by Believing
Only a small minority of victims report their sexual assault to law enforcement or file a formal complaint with university authorities. In USU’s most recent sexual misconduct survey, more than a third of victims did not tell anyone at all. The most common reasons included concerns about privacy, shame, the seriousness of their experience, and the fear they would be blamed or not believed.
Fifty-seven percent said they feared being blamed by others or not being believed.
When someone tells you they were raped or sexually assaulted, knowing how to respond is critical. A negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face no consequences for their crimes.
When you Start by Believing, you help stop this cycle. Improving our personal and professional reactions encourages more people to disclose their own experiences with sexual assault so they can get essential support. It starts with you.
End the silence. Stop the cycle of Violence. Start by Believing
How to "Start by Believing"
What to Say if Someone Discloses to You
- Listen with empathy and validate the person disclosing to you. For example:
- “I’m sorry this happened. I’m here for you.”
- “You can tell me as much or as little as you want.”
- “It’s not your fault.”
- “I’m glad you told me. What can I do to support you?”
- Avoiding asking “why” questions. These can sound accusatory and make survivors blame themselves. It is not your responsibility to investigate or to determine if a crime or policy violation was committed.
- Recognize that healing from trauma is not black and white, and each individual will heal at their own pace and in their own way. Because of this, someone may not be ready or able to report to police or Title IX right away or ever. That is okay.
- Know the resources available, including victim advocacy and reporting options, and ask if they need help getting connected.
- Trust the person disclosing to you to know what is best for themselves. Often, survivors have had the ability to make their own decisions stripped away from them; it’s our role to put that power back in their hands by supporting their choices.
Learn more about helping a loved one
In Your Social Interactions
Speak up: Many people dramatically overestimate the percentage of sexual assault reports that are false. In fact, research shows that about 2-8% of sexual assault reports to law enforcement are false, far less than many people realize. Challenge these myths when you hear them!
Take a stand: When you hear people blame a victim for their “role” in the sexual assault, remind them that we’ve all made choices that decrease our safety. It is not the choice of the victim that matters – it is the decision of someone else to commit a sexual assault.
Start a conversation: Social media allows you to carry the message farther and faster than ever before. Use your preferred platform to engage a conversation on what it means to #StartbyBelieving. Print the pledge banner, take a selfie, and share it!
Know where to get help: If someone discloses to you, help them get the resources they need by visiting with one of the victims’ services listed on the back.
When victims delay reporting, it does not mean they are lying. Victims often say fear of their assailant or retaliation from the assailant’s friends kept them from reporting. An assailant often has some sort of power over a victim – social, economic, emotional, or academic – that makes it more difficult for a victim to come forward. Those who do report go through a long process that has no guarantees of a particular outcome in the justice system.
Over time, that power dynamic may shift or a victim will feel empowered to report their experience after going through counseling and processing their experience. Authorities encourage reporting at any point.
Take the Pledge to Start by Believing
Make your personal commitment to:
- Start by Believing when someone tells you they were sexually assaulted.
- Support survivors on the road to justice and healing.
- Help end the silence.
Add #USUaggies in the "I am" section of the pledge form so we know how many Aggies pledge!
Learn more about resources and reporting.
Get Frequently Asked Questions for Start by Believing at USU.
Listen to a Start by Believing Aggie Radio podcast.