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GOSHEN – Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler joined the Mental Health Association in Orange County, Inc. (MHA) and other community partners to recognize Start by Believing Day on Wednesday, April 6th.
MHA launched Start by Believing through its Orange County Rape Crisis program.
“Sexual assault is incredibly traumatizing for victims and being met with doubt and skepticism only hurts them more,” Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said. “When we listen from a place of believing, we provide a victim the support that they need, helping them begin the healing process as they pursue justice. Orange County will continue work with MHA and our community partners to help victims of sexual violence.”
“Sexual assault survivors deserve all the support and compassion that the community can provide, and I support all efforts to make that a reality.” Hoovler added. “Reports of sexual assault must be treated by law enforcement with the highest priority. Those reporting sexual abuse are entitled to have their reports handled by competent, compassionate, and professional staff, with specialized training in these most serious of cases. I am proud to say that in Orange County we have many dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors who continually strive to provide survivors the support they need, while seeking to bring offenders to justice.”
Start by Believing is a public awareness campaign focused on the public response to sexual assault. A friend or family member is usually the first person a survivor confides in after an assault. Their personal reaction often dictates the victim’s first step on a long path toward justice and healing. Often times, according to Orange County Commissioner of Mental Health and Social Services Darcie Miller, when a survivor confides in someone they trust, they do not feel fully supported.
As a result, they are less likely to pursue the matter with law enforcement. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 230 are reported to the police. Of those 230 reports, 46 lead to an arrest, and of those 46 arrests, nine cases are referred to prosecutors. RAINN reported that more than 75 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
“Start by Believing provides an opportunity for communities to unify with one meaningful message for survivors of sexual assault – we hear you; we believe you and we are here to help,” said Angela Jo Henze, Executive Director of MHA. “The first step is making a personal commitment to Start by Believing when someone discloses that they were raped or sexually assaulted. Please take the pledge and support MHA’s Rape Crisis Program in advocating for survivors of sexual assault.”
Residents who need assistance for a sexual assault, or for mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disability, or information or referrals with trained professionals may dial 311 (800-832-1200), Orange County’s Crisis Call Center, 24 hours a day. The Call Center provides collaborative, professional telephone support and outreach to anyone in Orange County in need of emotional support or crisis intervention.