START BY BELIEVING
As if defending allegations of sexual abuse wasn’t difficult enough, an organization calling itself the End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) has launched a campaign called Start By Believing (SBB). According to EVAWI it is the only organization dedicated to ignoring the criminal justice response to violence against women on every level both within the professions tasked with responding to victims and across society as a whole. Here are some facts about SBB:
· SBB representatives have publically stated that SBB is not meant for abuse investigations involving child victims, yet their representatives have approached child advocacy centers to “sign on”
· SBB Facebook depicts photos of advocacy centers that have adopted the SBB philosophy
· White Papers being generated with regard to cautioning advocacy centers regarding adopting the SBB approach (e.g. Spears)
In spite of the fact that any professional truly interested in developing reliable and accurate information about an allegedly abusive event would remain objective, SBB supports investigative procedures that ignore objectivity. Here are some examples of SBB in practice:
· A document from the Department of Justice and Police Executive Research Forum instructs investigators to hand “control of the process back to the victim” and allow the complainant “to request certain investigative steps not be conducted.”
· Are such actions likely to bias the investigation and render its conclusions inaccurate?
· The University of Texas’ Blueprint for Campus Police is unique in its repeated recommendations that investigators should not only presume the truthfulness of the accuser, but also seek to anticipate and counter defense strategies (Table 7.4).
· See book by “Missoula: Rape In A Campus Town” where police have now adopted the SBB principles
Some jurisdictions like Maricopa County have voiced grave concerns and advised law enforcement against adopting the SBB philosophy. Other jurisdictions have the Start By Believing (SBB) logo and words on their police cars.
The reality is sexual abuse investigations have for years been conducted by individuals who start with the answers before they ask any questions. However, SBB is alarming for its candor in publicly eschewing objectivity. As La Rochefoucauld said “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” SBB is evidence those advocates posing as professionals have finally eschewed hypocrisy and given us a glimpse into their world of ideology.