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USU Reaffirms Commitment to "Start by Believing"

Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019

Utah State University and CAPSA are partnering to improve the response to disclosures of sexual violence on campus and in the community by promoting Start by Believing. Start by Believing means shifting the response from blame to support when survivors disclose incidents of sexual violence. 

Historically, victims of sexual violence have been blamed for the crimes against them in ways victims of other crimes have not. This approach discourages survivors from reporting, fails to hold perpetrators accountable, and makes it more difficult for them to seek and receive the support they need to heal from such traumatic experiences.

“When someone is assaulted they typically turn to someone they trust like a friend, family member or a religious leader,” said Jenny Erazo, director of USU’s SAAVI office. “If that first response is negative or the survivor doesn’t feel believed by someone they trust, the likelihood of the survivor being willing to report or seek help greatly decreases.”

Several administrators will be joining together to support the Start by Believing campaign including USU President Noelle Cockett, Vice President for Student Affairs James Morales and Erazo, SAAVI’s director.  

In 2015, Utah became the national leader in the Start by Believing campaign when the state legislature designated the first Wednesday of every April as Start by Believing Day.

The university will provide booths on Start by Believing Day, April 3, in the TSC, library foyer, the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art and at the LDS Institute where students, faculty, staff and other community members can stop by and make a pledge to Start by Believing and support victims. In addition, each on-campus housing area office will transform into a pledge booth for those students who live in these areas.

CAPSA will be sharing the message of Start by Believing at multiple events throughout April, including Baby Animal Days at the American West Heritage Center.

“Anyone and everyone can start by believing. It’s as simple as listening with empathy and validating the individual disclosing to you,” said Felicia Gallegos, SAAVI outreach and prevention coordinator. “Aim to avoid asking ‘why’ questions that often place the blame on the survivor. Additionally, trust that they know what is best for themselves. Healing from trauma is not black and white, and each individual will heal at their own pace and in their own way; it’s our role to put that power of choosing what is best for them back into their hands by supporting their choices.”

Start by Believing Day will be the first awareness event of many for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The following week will be Sexual Assault Awareness Week and will include events such as; Heroes not Victims Panel, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Men’s March and Take Back the Night Community March.

For more information about USU’s Start by Believing campaign, visit:


  • - Amanda DeRito, Director of Crisis Communications and Issues Management, Public Relations and Marketing, 435-797-2759

Media Contact:

  • - Amanda DeRito, Director of Crisis Communications and Issues Management, Public Relations and Marketing, 435-797-2759
  • - Felicia Gallegos, Outreach and Prevention Coordinator, Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Office

Additional Resources:

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