McMurray signs ‘Start by Believing Day’ proclamation, brings awareness to sexual assault


The Mayor of St. Joseph, Bill McMurray, signs the proclamation “Start by Believing Day” in City Hall on Wednesday. / Photo by Tommy Rezac.


St. Joseph Post

St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray signed a “Start By Believing Day” proclamation at City Hall on Wednesday to raise awareness of sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and McMurray says signing this proclamation will hopefully motivate people to reach out and support victims of sexual assault.

“It is designed to improve responses from friends, family members and community professionals,” said McMurray, “so they can help victims gain access to supportive resources and get involved with the criminal justice system.”

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in St. Joseph says only one in five sexual assaults are reported, while fewer than three percent of perpetrators are convicted or imprisoned.

One in two women and one in five men have experienced sexual violence, with assault occurring every 73 seconds on average, according to national statistics.

Karla Hanlan, YWCA’s sexual assault attorney, says the purpose of the “Start by Believing Day” proclamation is to have productive and supportive conversations with victims.

“We just have to believe our survivors,” she said. “We have to let them know it’s not their fault. We go to Mosaic Life Care and help victims of sexual assault overcome their trauma. Just to be with them as a lawyer. “

Hanlan added that the YWCA also provides residential assistance, free therapy, and a 24-hour crisis management team to help victims of sexual assault.

She said COVID-19 had a significant impact on how YWCA helps people, especially when there is no face-to-face contact. With certain restrictions now being lifted locally, Hanlan said more supporters have been able to return to Mosaic to help victims of sexual violence.

“When (the pandemic) first started, we weren’t allowed to go to the hospital,” Hanlan emphasized. “I don’t think men or women went to the hospital for a check-up. In the past three months, more and more of us have returned to the hospital. “

According to McMurray, awareness of sexual assault is not limited to the month of April. By signing the proclamation on Wednesday, he hopes the city will stand by the victims of the assault and work to provide them with the help they need.

“The City of St. Joseph shares a critical concern for victims of sexual violence,” he stated, “and a desire to support their needs for justice and healing.”

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Robert Dunfee