The Halifax Police Department is taking a stand and they want others to do the same. Officers of the department have signed a "start by believing" pledge when dealing with sexual assault claims.
The force posted several images of their officers holding certificates with the words "start by believing" written in bold. They say they want any victim of sexual assault to know that when they come in to file a report, they will be heard, believed and supported.
The initiative is designed to make victims feel comfortable reporting their assaults. Forces around the world are struggling with the problem of under-reporting. Many victims say they worry about being blamed, humiliated or not-believed.
According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline only 310 rapes out of every 1,000 are reported to police. Of those only 6 will serve jail time.
A string of recent judicial rulings in Canada, where Halifax is the largest eastern city, has made sexual assault a nearly nightly headline. A judge near Halifax recently ruled that a "drunk can consent" in a case where an unconscious woman was molested by her cab driver. The judge acquitted a man despite being caught in the act by police.
To some the pledge seems like a common sense approach, and should be the business as usual for any police department.
That's the goal of the department. The hashtag #startbybelieving has taken off on Twitter with many posting pictures of themselves signing the pledge. Bracelets with the phrase "Start By Believing Start the Healing" are being sold around town as well.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and cities across the world are launching programs to help stop this all-too-frequent crime.