“Start by Believing” campaign kicks off in Spokane for sexual assault victims

Three simple words. “I believe you.”

That was the message behind the “Start by Believing” campaign kick-off at Sweet Frostings in downtown Spokane, held by Spokane Police and Lutheran Community Services.

“Sexual assault victims are coming forwards and they are being met with doubt, skepticism and blame,” said Lieutenant Mike McNab, with Spokane Police.

He’d know, he’s been investigating domestic violence and sexual assault as part of his policing for almost two decades. Its a hard crime to investigate.

“Victims often blame themselves or often they are afraid they won’t be believed,” he said, “so they don’t come forward.”

It’s estimated only one in five victims come forward and accuse their attackers. Sexual assault is something that occurs across genders, across socio-economic classes, and can happen to anyone.

“If that is the statistics then we are failing miserably,” he said.

With that in mind, over cupcakes Wednesday, he and other law enforcement officers let folks know about the decision that was made to make a difference in the amount of victims that come forward.

The police department will now make sure that they say “I believe you” to victims, but the change in culture doesn’t stop there.

“I want everybody, not just police, not just advocates or victims, I want everybody to consider for a second if one of their loved ones came forward and said I’ve been sexually assaulted,” he said. “How would you respond?”

Advocates at Lutheran Community Services say the campaign is something they’ve hoped would happened with law enforcement in Spokane for years.

“I can’t think of anything more impactful then to have a law enforcement officer say ‘when you first come to me, I am going to believe you, I am going to respect you and I am going to trust you'” said LCS Director of Victim Advocacy and Education, Erin Williams.

For more information on Lutheran Community Services and their 24-hour hotline click here.

For more information on the national “Start by Believing” campaign click here.