Awareness campaign to feature sexual assault film and discussion

MIDDLEBURY — A few words can make all the difference — both positively and negatively — especially in the mind of a victim who has just been sexually assaulted. The next response is crucial: Will she be shamed or will she be believed?
This response is the focal point of the initiation of a community-wide public awareness campaign to “Start by Believing,” seeking to improve the public response to sexual assault. The campaign is called Start by Believing because a friend or family member is typically the first person a victim confides in after an assault, and each person’s reaction is the first step in a long path toward justice and healing.
Knowing how to respond is critical — a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where sexual assault predators face zero consequences for their crimes.
The effects of a negative response will be showcased in the film, “UnSlut: A Documentary Film,” which shares stories from around North America, exploring the causes of sexual shaming, and offering solutions. The Addison County Council Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (ACCADSV) has joined with the community to present two screenings of the film: Friday, March 18, at 12:45 p.m. at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater, and Tuesday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at Middlebury College, Axinn Room 232. Both events are free and open to the public.
A failed response can be devastating. Research documents that rapists attack an average of six times, which means that one failed response can equal five more victims. The Start by Believing campaign will lead the way toward stopping this cycle, by creating a positive community response, informing the public, uniting allies and supporters, and improving our personal reactions. The goal is to change our community and outcomes for victims, one response at a time.
The screenings will provide a safe space to open up the conversation with the community and discuss the greater implications of negative responses to victims of sexual assault, and how people can be better supports by simply believing.
The Start by Believing campaign was developed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) and is being introduced locally by the following community partners: ACCADSV and WomenSafe, and Chellis House, Middlebury College’s Women’s Resource Center.
If you or anybody you know has been sexually assaulted, help and resources are available 24 hours a day by calling WomenSafe at 802-388-4205 or 1-800-388-4205. For more information, visit www.startbybelieving.org or www.womensafe.net. Join the movement locally and get updates at www.facebook.com/StartByBelieving. 

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