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Start By Believing Campaign at Westminster College

Oct 31, 2016 03:28PM ● By Natalie Mollinet

Students take a pledge to be someone that sexual assault victims could talk to.

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

Sugar House, Utah - On U.S. college campuses,  23.1% of female and 5.4% of male undergraduate students say they have experienced rape or sexual assault. In Utah, one in six women will be assaulted. At Westminster College, the Tipping Point Club devoted a week to the Start By Believing Campaign, a campaign that is a call to action to every student and community member that if someone comes to you who has been sexually assaulted that you’ll be supportive.  

“The more we are aware of it the more prepared we are to tackle it,” Tiffany Perry, president of the Tipping Point Club said. This event was the first time that a Utah college devoted a week of events to the Start By Believing Campaign. The Tipping Point is a student club that started last year. The club mainly focused on human trafficking but soon learned that they couldn’t talk about human trafficking without talking about sexual assault. 

Perry said that she hoped the week would not only help students who had been sexually assaulted be open about talking about their experience, but those on campus would learn how to be a positive influence to those who approach them with their experience. 

“A lot of cultural aspects will provide barriers for victims to be able to disclose their trauma,” Perry said, “They feel like they can’t because they feel guilty about the experience or that they were at fault.” 

Perry said that the campaign will help people not only in the school, but in the community to help break those barriers. 

The week-long campaign presented how individuals can respond to someone who has been sexually assaulted. Perry suggested that instead of being prodding and asking questions like “what were you drinking? And what were you wearing?” ask the questions, “Do you want to talk about it? What can I do for you? How can I help you?” 

“We want to put the focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator, and how we can get the victims help and justice,” Perry said. 

The week included a pledge event where students took a pledge to start being someone that others could confide it. It also included workshops on the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and the warning signs. The college showed the movie The Hunting Ground, a film about sexual assaults on college campuses. A panel discussion was set up to talk about it, and experts from police officers to leaders from groups like Talk To a Survivor and the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault were there to talk about how people can help.

Diane Tilton, founder of Talk to A Survivor, said, “We’re taking social action as a part of our healing. To disclose our issues will show people they’re not alone and they can take social action in big and small ways.” 

In Sugar House, there is a Rape Recovery Center at 2000 South and 1300 East. Mara Haight the executive director said the more the subject is believed the better the outcomes they’ll have long term. 

Perry hopes that the students at Westminster College are able to be a supportive friend to those who have been assaulted. 

“The current culture in our society breeds a response of disbelief and victim blaming when someone discloses that they have been sexually assaulted,” Perry said. “A supportive response is a step in breaking the cycle of violence.”