Start by Believing

Every year during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Avalon works with partner community organizations, service providers, first responders, and and government to roll out the Start By Believing campaign across HRM. Start By Believing is a public awareness campaign that seeks to create positive communities, inform the public, unite allies and supporters, and improve responses to survivors of sexualized violence. Because negative responses can further trauma and foster unaccountable communities, Start By Believing raises awareness dedicated to ending thecycle of silence and moving towards justice and healing for survivors of sexualized violence.

To participate, we invite you to print out the SBB Pledge Placard and take a photo of you and/or your team, group, organization, or community and post it to social media on April 4th 2018 – Start by Believing Day – and throughout April with the hashtags #startbybelieving #SBBHFX. Please tag us @CentreAvalon!

History and Rationale

  • In 2013, a young woman named Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life support after a suicide attempt after pictures of her sexual assault were circulated on social media. Her parents went public with the lack of response from various service providers including mental health, police, schools, etc. In the aftermath of her death there was much backlash that included victim blaming as well as community mobilization in support of survivors and an increase in survivors coming forward to disclose or access services. Participants of one of Avalon’s survivor support groups suggested that Avalon needed to launch a public awareness campaign to ensure victims/survivors knew that they were believed. They identified that many of them had heard I believe you or It’s not your fault for the first time when they came to Avalon. They felt that others needed to hear this message.
  • In the Spring of 2013 Avalon launched Start By Believing as a public awareness campaign, as well as the theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, that included social media, a video and poster campaign, trauma informed first responder training, and incorporating SBB into our youth outreach education and prevention workshops. In the Autumn we hosted a provincial Start By Believing Conference which included internationally known as well as local speakers. We incorporated SBB into our model of practice and approach, public awareness, and first response best practices.
  • In 2014 the Avalon Board of Directors wrote a letter to all levels of government, community partners, universities, police and RCMP etc. asking them to sign on to SBB and to support Halifax and Nova Scotia  becoming SBB communities.
  • In 2016 we incorporated SBB into the Selfie for Survivors movement that was started in support of the women victimized by Jian Ghomeshi, following his acquittal. Avalon was part of the local, provincial, regional and national networks that made public statements in support of victims/survivors and called for legal reform and better supports for victims/survivors.
  • Start By Believing served as the basis of Avalon’s 2016 crowdfund campaign to raise funding to sustain direct services.
  • Avalon declared Start By Believing Day as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2017 and invited community partners to also declare it. We launched a public awareness campaign that many community partners, service providers, and members of the public participated in.
  • The Halifax Regional Police and some members of the Halifax Sexual Assault Response Team (HSART) declared Start By Believing Day in April 2017
  • The Stadacona Marching Band (Canadian Armed Forces Halifax) also declared it as part of their dedication to addressing sexualized violence in the military through Operation Honour.
  • Avalon continues to work with service providers to provide consultation and training regarding trauma informed practices, approaches and responses that include Start By Believing. For example, the Avalon SANE Coordinator facilitates part of the trauma informed training for Halifax Regional Police
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