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Denver Seeks to Improve the Public Response to Sexual Assault

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Denver public safety and criminal justice officials today participated in a billboard unveiling of a public awareness campaign called Start by Believing - a campaign focused on improving the public response to sexual assault.

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.

Research documents that sexual predators attack an average of six times, which means one failed response can result in five more victims. Start by Believing will lead the way toward stopping this cycle by informing the public, fostering a positive community and public service response, uniting stakeholders and supporters, and improving personal reactions. The goal is to change outcomes for victims, one positive response at a time. 

“We can and we must do better as a community to support victims of sexual assault,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “There are many steps to the healing process but together we can provide a safe, caring environment where victims are empowered to step forward and take action against those who have harmed them.”

Denver launched its Start by Believing campaign last year, which is lauded as one of the most inclusive sexual assault campaigns associated with the national endeavor. The Start by Believing campaign was developed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) and has been launched in other communities across the nation, leading to an increase in reported sexual assaults and survivors seeking services.

“We continue to be amazed by Denver’s accomplishments, with the most comprehensive Start by Believing campaign to date,” said EVAWI Executive Director Joanne Archambault.  “As they enter their second year, campaign organizers are even more creative than ever, reaching out to the community with materials featuring a diverse array of survivors.  The message is clear:  No matter what your gender, age, ethnic background, or physical ability, Denver Starts by Believing when someone discloses that they were sexually assaulted.”

This year, campaign organizers partnered with the Colorado Institute of Art to develop artwork for the Start by Believing campaign that will be featured across the City and Metro-Denver area. Students created and submitted several different campaign design options, taking into consideration input from survivors, service providers and other subject matter experts.

The campaign is implemented locally by the following partners: The Mayor’s Office, the Blue Bench, Sexual Assault Interagency Council, Department of Public Safety, Denver Police Department, Denver District Attorney’s Office, and Denver Health.

The campaign is also made possible with generous support from local sponsors: Lamar Advertising, Outdoor Promotions LLC and 5280 Magazine.

If you or anybody you know has been sexually assaulted, help and resources are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the Blue Bench at 303-322-7273 or by visiting the Denver Health Medical Center Emergency Department at 777 Bannock Street. For more information, please visit


About The Blue Bench:

The Blue Bench (formerly RAAP) is Denver’s only comprehensive sexual assault prevention and support center. Since its founding in 1983, The Blue Bench has worked to eliminate sexual assault and diminish the impact it has on individuals, their loved ones and our community through comprehensive issue advocacy, prevention and care.  

About Denver Health SANEs:

Denver Health Medical Center has specially trained nurses called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist victims of sexual assault. SANEs can provide a physical examination to check for and take care of injuries; a more thorough exam, called a medical forensic examination, to collect any possible evidence, document any injuries and provide medications to help prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV infections; medical information, community resources and answer questions; and access to support and crisis counseling.

About End Violence Against Women International & Start By Believing:

End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the criminal justice and community response to gender-based violence. EVAWI developed the Start By Believing awareness campaign to be utilized in communities like Denver for their own local efforts.