Start by Believing campaign brings awareness to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The words "I believe you," can make all the difference to a victim of sexual assault or abuse.

Geony Rucker knows first-hand, the fear victims face before coming forward with their story. 

"It's terrifying, you think for sure nobody will believe you," said Rucker, a sexual sssault survivor. 

Ruker said it was her freshman year of college when she was raped on a date. Not knowing where to turn, or who to tell, she waited. 

"I thought people could tell just by looking at me that it was like "rape victim" just written all over me. I felt filthy," said Rucker. 

Following Rucker's assault, it wasn't how she felt that kept her from sharing her story. 

"If I would have known there were friends or other people that I could have told, with complete certainty, that they were going to believe me, it would have changed everything," said Rucker. 

The Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, in partnership with a number of local law enforcement agencies, is using April's Sexual Assault Awareness month status to announce this year's campaign, “Start by Believing.”

Teaming up with KC Metro Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, they're hoping to change the response. 

"That's so important, because when a victim is making a statement to a police officer, they want to know that they're being believed," said Melanie Austin, director of education at MOCSA. 

The campaign is called Start by Believing because a friend or family member is typically the first person a victim confides in after assault. The campaign enforces a positive response, which Austin said is the first step toward healing. 

This is the third year MOCSA has done the campaign, which is focused on improving public response to sexual assault. The organization plans outreach events with all 40 police jurisdictions in the metro area as well as all college and university campuses. 

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