• City Council

Cambridge Starts by Believing

Cambridge Starts by Believing

Cambridge signs on to the global Start by Believing Campaign, with the goal of transforming the way we respond to sexual assault.

“We hear from survivor after survivor of sexual assault that when they disclosed what happened to them, people frequently said ‘are you sure?’” stated Katia Santiago-Taylor, M.S., Advocacy and Legislative Affairs Manager for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), which was founded in Cambridge in 1973. Santiago-Taylor was speaking at Cambridge City Hall at the April 10 Start by Believing pledge and proclamation.

Cambridge is the first city in Massachusetts to sign on to the global Start by Believing Campaign, sponsored by End Violence Against Women International, with the goal of “transforming the way we respond to sexual assault.” According to the website, “As few as one in five victims report their sexual assault, so they often don’t get the help they need. Without a report, law enforcement misses the chance to identify perpetrators in their community, repeat offenders go undetected, and more people are victimized.”

Mayor Marc McGovern, himself a social worker, talked about the importance of this campaign, based on the research showing that when survivors are met by disbelief from friends or family they rarely report the assault to law enforcement. Mayor McGovern spoke of the alignment of this campaign with city supports for survivors, and thanked the many partners within Cambridge that contribute to this work and to the Cambridge pledge and proclamation, including the City Council; Elizabeth Speakman, Coordinator, Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative; and the Police Department. After the reading of the proclamation, Police Commissioner Bard talked about the ongoing training the police department has been undergoing to support sexual assault survivors and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

I had an opportunity to catch up with Emily Shield of the Cambridge Women's Commission after the event, and she commented “The Cambridge Women’s Commission is honored to be part of the City of Cambridge’s move to become a Start By Believing community. Three small words - “I believe you” - can have such a positive impact for survivors and for changing the culture towards a world where sexual assault survivors are supported and where perpetrators face consequences. We are proud that Cambridge is now part of a global campaign to end the silence around rape and sexual assault.”

Putting the Pledge into Action Follow-Up Event: What Do I Say? Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence:
Wednesday, May 1, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
7 Temple St., Cambridge, MA | Second Floor Library
The City of Cambridge hosts the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to offer an educational workshop for all Cambridge community members. Learn how you can respond when someone in your life shares with you that they’re a survivor.
Food will be provided. For more information and to RSVP, contact espeakman@cambridgema.gov.

Unable to attend the event? This page on the End Violence Against Women web site offers suggestions about how to respond.