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Westminster Students Pledge To "Start By Believing" Victims Of Sexual Assault

Nicole Nixon
Students sign the "Start by Believing" pledge at Westminster College, Sept. 19, 2016

Students at Westminster College are hosting a full week of events devoted to discussing and preventing sexual assault. The message is focused on believing victims who come forward.

Tiffany Perry is a senior at Westminster and President of The Tipping Point, a student club that helps raise awareness of human trafficking and sexual assault. Her group is hosting what they call “Start by Believing” week.

In a short speech Monday to kick off the week of events, Perry reminded students that one in three Utah women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime.

“So it’s really important that we’re talking about this,” Perry says, “We’re having this conversation where we’re shifting away from blame and shifting more toward support.”

Students were invited to take a pledge to react with trust and support if they ever learn of someone who has experienced rape or sexual violence.

It’s important for victims of sexual assault to be believed by friends and community members instead of being brushed off, says Mara Haight, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City.

“For so many survivors, the most traumatic part of what happens is the secondary trauma,” Haight explains. “The trauma of telling someone and not being believed. Of disclosing to a roommate or a friend and being asked questions about their motives, or why they were doing what they were doing.”

Other events this week include a healthy relationship workshop, a screening of the campus rape documentary “The Hunting Ground,” and a panel discussion about sexual assault prevention.

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