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USU Kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Start By Believing Day

“Start by believing day is all about people flooding the internet and flooding campus with support for survivors, so that they know they’re safe and heard and believed," student advocate Mary Jo Duersch said.

Music boomed where tables covered in ribbons, pins, lanyards, and information pamphlets lined the quad at USU. Students passing through stopped to pick up swag items and signed the pledge to start by believing when someone tells them, they’ve survived sexual assault.

“Our friend from stats told us to come out here, and they’re giving out free pins so I thought I’d grab one, keep it on my backpack”, said Kenny, a student at USU.

As the executive director of CAPSA, Jill Anderson has dedicated her career to serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

"I’ve seen the impact that it has on survivors when you say to them, I believe you. How can I help?" said Anderson.

Student advocate Kayla Stafford has also witnessed this impact.

"My mom is actually a survivor of domestic violence and rape. ‘Start by believing’, and ‘supporting your survivors’ and ‘help end the silence’, I’ve seen how all of these things, in my mom’s life have helped her heal," said Stafford.

Student Lukas Keller has personal experience with the healing process.

"I, actually, am a survivor of sexual assault. Happened last year and so it’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I realize the toll that it can take, emotionally, having experienced that first-hand. And so now, I just wish that I can give that same support that I got when it happened to me. No one’s story is the same but we can give people universal support."

Support is what Cache County Council member Gina Worthen, offered in a pointed message to survivors.

“I believe you. It wasn’t your fault. You are worth loving and worthy of living. Healing takes time but you will get there,” said Worthen.

Katie White has been fascinated by a multitude of subjects all her life. At 13-years-old Katie realized she couldn't grow up to be everything — a doctor-architect-anthropologist-dancer-teacher-etc. — but she could tell stories about everything. Passionate about ethical and informed reporting, Katie is studying both journalism and sociology at Utah State University.