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Tips of the Trade

Reviewed by Diana Faugno, MSN, RN, CPN, SANE-A, FAAFS - Column Editor
Submitted by Catherine Johnson, Detective of the Kansas City Police

On The Edge – 2011

End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI)

In April 2011 End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) launched a public awareness campaign entitled Start by Believing.  This campaign is designed to change the response to sexual assault.  At the time of this launch I was not only a detective specializing in adult sex crimes investigations, but also an advisory board member for EVAWI and became determined to get this crucial message out to our area.

Once they became available, I began distributing posters and brochures to our area forensic care programs, local rape crisis center, and area police departments including the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.  The Kansas City Missouri Police Department has over one thousand sworn police officers in the patrol division and specialized units spanning six division stations.  Captain Mark Folsom, KCPD Special Victims Unit, got involved and arranged for Start by Believing posters to be strategically placed in each division station.  This was a great way for patrol officers to be reminded of the importance of starting by believing when responding to calls for service involving victims of sexual assault.

In 2006, while working on a stranger sexual assault, a composite sketch was created of the suspect.  A coordinated effort was made between law enforcement, Crimestoppers TIPs Hotline, and Lamar Advertising to get this sketch placed onto one of their digital billboards.   This effort generated over a hundred tips.  Remember how helpful they were during that investigation I decided to contact them regarding the Start by Believing Campaign.  I contacted Lamar Advertising and asked if they would be willing to donate space to advertise for this campaign in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area.

Multiple emails and phone calls were exchanged between Lamar Advertising, myself, and Joanne Archambault, Executive Director for EVAWI, regarding the billboard.  Lamar Advertising graciously offered to donate space on their digital billboards in the Metropolitan area.  EVAWI developed the artwork with a very simple message.  “I’ve been raped.  What will your reaction be?  Start by Believing.”  For three months this message was displayed on sixteen digital billboards throughout the metropolitan area.  The unveiling of these billboards launched a series of interviews with local news and radio programs.  Chief Jim Corwin, Kansas City Missouri Police Department, also included information about the Start by Believing campaign on his blog.

The response to these efforts has been widespread.  Officers have relayed stories of times they have given the victim the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to conclusions as a result of seeing the posters.  The local rape crisis center and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department have also seen an increase in victims reporting to law enforcement.  Although I cannot say it is as a direct result of the campaign, I would like to believe that the campaign has been an important component of the increase in reports.

Last, but certainly not least, a fundraising effort has also been done locally to support the campaign.   Prior to the official launch at the EVAWI Conference in Chicago, Blackthorne Candle Company, a local candle manufacturing company, was contacted to assist with product for fundraising.   Blackthorne Candle Company provided two sizes of candles at a significant discount and affixed Start by Believing labels to the tops and sides of the tin cans which housed the candles.  These candles were sold at the conference in Chicago, Illinois.

A crime scene technician for the Kansas City Missouri Police Department who is also an independent Beauti Control distributor, agreed to donate Beauti Control products for the silent auction basket as well as donate a portion of the profits directly to the campaign in exchange for my hosting a party.  The party was a success and a check was delivered to Ms. Archambault at the EVAWI Conference.

Since the conference in Chicago, I have conducted training with Forensic Nurses, Rape Crisis Center volunteers, as well as to law enforcement in the Metropolitan area and throughout the country.  I created a display board detailing the campaign.  I routinely take brochures and bracelets that say “I start by believing” when conducting training in regards to sexual assault investigations. 

The most recent activity to further this campaign in Kansas City was a 5K run/walk to benefit Stop Child Trafficking Now.  A fellow detective and I had purple shirts emblazoned with a teal ribbon in honor of sexual assault awareness.  Surrounding the embroidered ribbon were the words “Start by Believing” embroidered with the same teal ribbon.  The back of the shirt had the website  Posters and brochures were distributed and these shirts were worn to help spread the word.

Things have slowed down, but plans are in the works to get this campaign on digital billboards around the country.  I encourage each of you to try these ideas in your communities.  We are all very busy, but consider hanging a poster or simply wearing a bracelet.  People will ask you what the bracelet and poster mean.  Use this as an opportunity to share the campaign.  Together we can further this campaign and change the world.  The message is simple; if someone says they have been raped or sexually assaulted, start by believing.

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