DENVER (KDVR) — April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and reported cases in Denver are on the rise after plummeting during the pandemic. On Wednesday, city leaders gathered to make sure victims know they’re heard and supported.

Amanda, a brave survivor of sexual assault, took the podium to share her story. Reliving the 2010 assault, it was St. Patrick’s Day in LoDo when a day of fun turned into her worst nightmare.

“I lost my phone in Downtown Denver as well as my group of friends. Two guys agreed to help, but to them that meant leading me to a parking garage, taking their turns raping me and running away,” Amanda said. “I was so disoriented. I was crying and screaming for help.”

Amanda is still visibly shaken after 12 years. The trauma never truly fades, but Amanda decided to fight through trials, appeals and more. The men were sentenced and eventually took plea deals. In 2022, she stands strong saying she wouldn’t have made it without support.

“A village of strangers believed me and believed in me, which helped give me the strength and courage to be where I’m at today,” Amanda said.

When it comes to sexual assault, the words ‘I believe you’ matter

From police officers to doctors to the district attorney, the words “I believe you” matter. That message is why leaders, like Denver District Attorney Beth McCann and Mayor Michael Hancock, gathered on Wednesday. Hancock let people know sexual assault will not be tolerated.

“No one has the right to sexually assault another person,” Hancock said.

Dozens gathered to kick off the “Start by Believing” campaign, which happens on the first Wednesday in April, deemed Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Start by Believing campaign was developed by End Violence Against Women International.

McCann spoke and said reported sexual assault cases plummeted in 2020 because of the pandemic because fewer people were out, but now they’re rising again.

“In 2018, we filed 163 cases of sexual assault and in 2019, 128 cases. That number plummeted to 82 cases in 2020, but it crept back up in 2021 with 105 court cases filed,” McCann said. “With sexual assault cases again on the rise, it is important that we gather as civic leaders to say with one voice; we will start by believing you.”

She added that more than half of cases go unreported and is encouraging all victims to come forward for justice and to ensure predators don’t strike again.

“When you tell us you are sexually assaulted, we will start by believing you,” McCann said. “We will support you. We will believe you and we want you to report your situation and work with us as we go through the system, because we will bring people to justice.”

This is the eighth year Denver has participated in the campaign and several buildings, including Ball Arena and the City and County building, are lit up teal to raise awareness and shine a light on the issue.

Resources for victims, survivors, information seekers:

  • Start by Believing
  • The Blue Bench Sexual Assault Hotline: 303-322-7273
  • Denver Health Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners: 303-602-3007
  • Denver Police Victim Assistance Unit: 720-913-6035