The UCF Police Department will be recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month by hosting several events, including a tabling event on April 5 in partnership with UCF Victim Services, and an Ask Me Anything takeover on the department’s Instagram with a UCFPD sex crimes detective. Resources will also be shared on their social media accounts all month long.

History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Although open discussions about sexual assault and domestic violence were limited in the ’40s and ’50s, movements for social change and equality started to shift the way people thought about sexual violence.

This activism continued into the ’70s with support for survivors and a heightened awareness of sexual assaults. Over the next several years, advocates held events, marches and observances calling for legislation to support survivors. It wasn’t until the passing of the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 that it became obvious national efforts were needed to promote sexual violence prevention.

After conducting a poll in 2000, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Resource Sharing Project officially created National Sexual Assault Awareness Month — observed in April and symbolized by a teal ribbon.

The NSVRC continues to coordinate a national campaign each April — providing resources, graphics and tools needed to promote and share information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Start by Believing

Start by Believing, a global campaign created by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI), was launched during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2011. According to their website, the goal of this campaign is to “transform the way we respond to sexual assaults,” which will hopefully encourage more survivors to report to police.

“One of my top areas of focus at UCFPD is sexual crimes,” Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS says. “We want our community to feel comfortable coming to us to report these types of crimes, but we have to build that trust first. That’s why the Start by Believing campaign is so important and why all our officers and detectives at UCFPD have signed the pledge.”

The campaign states that knowing how to compassionately respond when someone tells you they were a victim of sexual assault is important. A negative response can make the trauma worse and discourage them from reporting.

Sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to prove in court, but when detectives start by believing the victim, they are better able to investigate their case and follow the evidence.

That’s why Metzger hired one of the top sex crimes detectives in the state — if not the country — in 2016.

Detective Rick Salcedo has been supporting survivors for over 30 years, first at the Orlando Police Department, and now at UCF. He’s earned countless honors over his career, most recently being named a Champion of Change by EVAWI.

He says he just wants victims to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

“Sex crimes are largely underreported,” Salcedo says. “I want to get justice for survivors, but I can’t do that if I don’t know what happened. The Start by Believing pledge lets survivors know that when you tell me you’ve been sexually assaulted, I’m not only going to help, but most importantly, I’m going to believe you.”

Detective Bianca Becker ’17, who was trained in sex crimes investigations by Salcedo, says that signing the pledge was a no-brainer for the detectives in the Criminal Investigation Division at UCF.

“We already start by believing victims at UCF,” Becker says. “Signing the pledge just reaffirms to the community that we support them and are here to help.”

To take the Start by Believing pledge, click here.

Denim Day

In 1992, an Italian court ruled against a young victim of sexual violence. Because their jeans were so tight, it implied consent to take them off. Shortly after, a group of women in the Italian Supreme Court protested this ruling by wearing their jeans in solidarity.

This day is now internationally known as Denim Day, when people around the world wear their jeans to support survivors of sexual assault.

To show UCF’s support, late President Emeritus John C. Hitt signed a proclamation in 2019 declaring jeans be worn on the last Wednesday in April in honor of Denim Day, and the tradition has continued ever since.

Resources at UCF

Sexual violence, crime and abuse is not tolerated at UCF. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, there are resources available for you.

UCF Victim Services provides confidential advocacy and support to the UCF community, 24/7. If you or someone you know has been impacted by crime, violence, or abuse, call a confidential victim advocate at (407) 823-1200 or text (407) 823-6868. In case of an emergency call 911 immediately.

Student Care Services provides one-on-one support including guidance, resources and referrals when UCF students are experiencing significant difficulties related to mental health, physical health, personal and family emergencies, financial issues or other areas of concern.

The mission of UCF’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) is to ensure equal opportunity and to protect the civil rights of all university community members through proactive outreach, education, and effective response and resolution. OIE, along with campus partners, are responsible for responding to and providing resources for those involved in a report of sex discrimination or violence.

To report a sexual assault to the UCF Police Department, call their non-emergency line at 407-823-5555 or dial 911 in an emergency.