RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As VCU recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness month, police organized the Start by Believing event on campus Wednesday.
One in five sexual assault victims report the crime, leaving many others without the resources they need.
The Start by Believing campaign started in 2011. Over 10 years later the program, which aims to transform the way people respond to sexual assault, has gone global.
Many agencies like the Attorney General’s Office, Project Empower and Virginia’s Leading Voice had conversations with students about supporting sexual assault survivors.
John Venuti, VCU Police Chief, said the department has integrated the campaign’s mission in their tactics for sexual assault investigations since 2014. Their goal is to get the community involved.
“All of us have responsibility in preventing sexual assault. We train our students and teach our students about bystander intervention,” he said.
So far this school year, the department received 20 reports of sexual assault. In the 2020/2021 school year, there were 23 reports. In the 2019/2020 school year, the department received 34 sexual assault reports.
Colette Mceachin, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, said her office investigated over 15 sexual assault reports since last January.
“Unfortunately, this type of crime is under-reported,” she said. “So many times, we as a society want to blame the victim.”
Mceachin said supporting a sexual assault victim could look very different depending on the situation.
“Some victims want to make a police report right away and have a prosecution. Some victims want to make a report just so it’s documented,” she said.
Chief Venuti said anyone who wants to report a sexual assault can go to the department or the school’s Title IV office. The report can also be made anonymously or through a third party.