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DENVER (KDVR) — While driving around downtown Denver, you may notice a reoccurring lighting commonality shared by several public and private buildings, which is part of an effort that aims to extend a helping hand to all past and future victims of sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Hancock was joined by local officials and Amanda, a survivor of this far-reaching crime, to recognize “Start by Believing Day,” which was started by End Violence against Women International.

In solidarity with this educational effort, partners from around Denver are taking part in Denver “shine a light.”

Organizations participating in this program are turning their exterior lights blue in an effort to raise awareness of the impact that something as simple as belief can have on a sexual assault victim’s recovery process. When they receive support out of the gate, then victims are more inclined to seek further assistance from groups that specialize in the field, like those at The Blue Bench.

According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a sexual assault is committed in the U.S. every 68 seconds. When a victim confides in a friend or a family member, the subsequent reaction from the person receiving this confession is pivotal to the victim’s recovery.

What to say when someone confides about sexual assault

  • “I believe you”
  • “It’s not your fault”
  • “I’m here to listen”
  • “How can I help?”

“Denver encourages everyone to believe victims of sexual assault, and we must continue the shift from doubt and blame to belief and support,” Hancock said. “We should start by believing because our reaction has the potential to make a direct impact on those close to us, and we should make it a positive impact.” 

Also in attendance during Wednesday’s presentation were Denver District Attorney Beth McCann; Megan Carvajal, executive director of The Blue Bench; and Michelle Metz with Denver Health.

Denver ‘shine a light’ participants

  • Denver City and County Building 
  • Empower Field at Mile High 
  • Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Arts Complex 
  • Buell Theater at Denver Arts Complex 
  • Ball Arena 

“Start by Believing at Denver Health means survivors are met with care and respect as their options are explained and their choices honored,” said Metz. “We know how overwhelming it can be for patients after a sexual assault and want them to know we Start by Believing.” 

Additional resources for victims of sexual assault

In addition to visiting the homepage of The Blue Bench, you can also reach out to them for help by phone at 303-322-7273.

If you want to speak with an agency that can get you connected with Denver Health’s sexual assault nurse examiner hotline, then call 303-602-3007.

Lastly, if you or someone you know have been a victim of sexual assault, you can contact the Denver Police Victim Assistance Unit at 720-913-6035.