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Posted on: April 1, 2021

Orange County recognizes Start by Believing Day

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Goshen, N.Y. – Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus joined the Mental Health Association in Orange County, Inc. (MHA) and other community partners to recognize Start by Believing Day on Thursday, April 1st at the Orange County Government Center.

MHA launched Start by Believing through its Orange County Rape Crisis program.

Neuhaus read a proclamation at the event to recognize Start by Believing Day and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is recognized each April. SAAM raises public awareness about sexual assault and educates communities about how to prevent sexual violence.

Orange County Assistant District Attorney Chris Borek and Deputy County Clerk Kelly Eskew also attended the event.

“Victims of sexual abuse need to be able to come forward and to be heard without having any concerns,” Neuhaus said. “Sexual assault is incredibly traumatizing for victims and being met with doubt and skepticism only hurts them more. When we start believing, we provide a victim the support that they need, assisting them in the healing process as they pursue justice. Orange County will continue to assist MHA and our community partners to help victims of sexual violence.”

Start by Believing is a public awareness campaign focused on the public response to sexual assault. A friend or family member usually is the first person a survivor confides in after an assault and each victim’s personal reaction is the first step in a long path toward justice and healing. Many 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 Mental Health Association in Orange County, Inc. “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 supporting survivors of sexual assault.”

Residents who need support for sexual assault, or mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disability, or information or referrals with trained professionals may dial 311, 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.

 For more information, contact Justin Rodriguez, Assistant to the County Executive for Communications and Media Relations at 845.291.3255 or jrodriguez@orangecountygov.com.

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