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Take the pledge to start believing survivors of sexual assault

The word "believe" is crucial when it comes to sexual abuse and sexual assault.

When you look back at your childhood pictures, you most likely see smiles and laughter.

Donna Alengi sees that too, but she looks at her photos a little differently.

"I see a facade," she said. "I am a survivor of sexual abuse. My dad was my abuser."

Alengi was able to get out of that situation when she left home at 17. Today, she uses her story to help others.

"I have been lucky enough to have support and have people who believe me as an adult and encouraged me to share my story," she said.

The word "believe" is crucial when it comes to sexual abuse and sexual assault.

"Most victims don't come forward because they fear not being believed," Westminster Councilwoman Anita Seitz said.

Seitz has been working on bringing the Start By Believing campaign to Westminster for the past year. It's a campaign that aims to change the way we respond to sexual assault.

Its name serves as the first step to stopping the cycle of trauma.

"It really resonated with our police department," Seitz said. "In part because of the O'Leary serial rape case and the work that our Commander Edna Hendershot and her investigation had taken it."

In 2011, Commander Edna Hendershot of the Westminster Police Department worked with regional partners and the FBI to investigate a series of rapes that happened in the area.

"They took the statements at face value and starting investigating," Seitz said.

Police later arrested Marc O'Leary and found out one of his first victims was a woman in Washington state years prior.

"Not only was she not believed by law enforcement there, they actually charged her with making a false report," Seitz said.

Seitz and Alengi are hoping this pledge will never let that happen again.

"By saying the words, 'I believe you' and 'how can I help?' we're promoting accountability to perpetrators, we're making it likely that they won't victimize other people and we're allowing survivors the dignity that they need to heal," Seitz said.

"Statistics show that people who have a positive first response when they disclose that they've been abused have a better chance for recovery," Alengi said.

One in two women and one in four men are victims of sexual assault. Alengi says survivors of sexual assault are more likely to come forward to a family member or friend; that's what she did.

Alengi and Seitz are encouraging everyone in the community to take this pledge.

"Stop blaming the victim and start realizing that there's something we can do as a society," Alengi said. "Build some awareness and help people though that awareness."

Click here to take the pledge.

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