Start by Believing: VCU supports sexual assault survivors

To the VCU Community:

Spring is the time for growth and renewal.  

During this academic year, the topic of sexual assault has stayed in the headlines.  It is a real problem at colleges and universities nationwide. Virginia Commonwealth University is committed to preventing these assaults by educating our entire campus community about our expectations and by helping survivors in ways that best fit their needs. 

I know I can count on every one of you to continue to cultivate a culture of respect at VCU.  VCU prohibits all forms of violence, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. These experiences are traumatic for survivors and need to be treated as such.

That is why VCU is embracing the “Start by Believing” Campaign, which has a simple and powerful message:  When a person comes forward and shares a sexual assault experience with you, start by believing them.  It takes a great deal of strength and vulnerability for a survivor to come forward with his or her experiences.  Therefore, the first person they speak with, whether another student or a member of our faculty or staff, can play a crucial role in the path a survivor may take to healing and seeking justice.

I ask you to start by believing and consider taking action at all times, including during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.  The Division of Student Affairs and the VCU Police Department are leading the Start by Believing efforts for VCU.  This community initiative will make us all more aware of this important issue and will help ensure that those who want to report assaults can do so in an even more welcoming environment. 

I invite you to consider the following ways to get involved:

· Sign the Start by Believing pledge today on VCU’s campuses.  Volunteers will have pledge cards available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at various locations including: Linden Court, the Compass, Snead Hall, inside the University Student Commons and the Larrick Student Center. 

· Make a commitment by signing a pledge of support online. (

It is normal for students to feel emotionally involved, especially if they or someone they know has experienced violence in their lives.  VCU has resources available for confidential support at any time, including:

· VCU University Counseling Services: 804-828-6200 (Monroe Park Campus) 804-828-3964 (MCV Campus)

· Greater Richmond Regional Hotline: 804-612-6126 (off campus)

If you would like information on additional resources including support groups, housing, and to learn more about options for reporting, please contact The Wellness Resource Center at 804-828-2085.

At VCU, we are committed to open communication on problems of vital importance, and sexual assault is no exception.  I am grateful for the ways in which you will start by believing survivors, and help ensure that VCU will always safe place to live, work and learn.


Michael Rao