Arizona police chief wants to learn about SLO's Start by Believing program

SLO Police Chief Steve Gesell
SLO Police Chief Steve Gesell Courtesy photo

San Luis Obispo will receive a visit from the past president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police on Monday to meet with San Luis Obispo County officials about a program that provides support services for victims of sexual abuse and their families.

Jerald Monahan, chief of the Prescott Police Department in Arizona, will meet with San Luis Obispo Police Department Chief Steve Gesell, county Sheriff Ian Parkinson, RISE Executive Director Jennifer Adams and others to discuss the Start by Believing public awareness campaign and how the city of San Luis Obispo was able to launch its own effective campaign.

Start by Believing, a nationwide public awareness campaign created by End Violence Against Women International to educate the public about appropriate responses to a claim of sexual abuse from a victim, a crucial factor in whether the crime goes reported. The San Luis Obispo campaign was launched in January 2013.

Monahan is in the process toward implementing a similar campaign in his city, one he hopes will be embraced by the rest of his state, and is looking to San Luis Obispo’s campaign for direction.

“Victims of sexual crimes often choose to simply live with what happened rather than tell someone or ask for help,” Gesell said in a written release. “We are committed to doing our part to make it easier for victims to come forward.”

Since the launch of the local campaign, reports of sexual assaults have increased more than 40 percent over the previous four years, when an average of 60 sexual assaults were reported each year, according to San Luis Obispo Police Department statistics.

While there is no evidence that the local campaign has a direct relation to the increase, similar campaigns in other states have experienced similar increase in reports following Start by Believing campaigns, according to End Violence Against Women International Research Director Kim Lonsway.

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