DENVER (CBS4) – Denver wants to break the cycle of sexual abuse by encouraging everyone to believe victims who confide in others.

Prosecutors say on average a sex predator attacks at least six times. The reaction of the first person who a sex assault victim tells their story to can have tremendous impact — either if they report the crime, or carry it as a secret for years.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“I told my mom what was happening to me and she believed me and made it stop,” sexual assault victim Matt Anckner said Wednesday at an event launching Denver’s new Start By Believing campaign.

Matt was just 4 years old when he told his mother that a step-brother was sexually abusing him. Twelve years later the teen is now sharing his story for a reason.

“If my mom didn’t stick up for me I probably wouldn’t be here. It was hard enough with the support that I had. Without it I couldn’t even imagine,” he said.

His mother, Tammy Anckner, said there was only one way to respond to her son.

“I am so sorry this happened to you. I am so sorry. I will make it stop,” she said.

Matt Anckner gets a hug from his mom (credit: CBS)

Matt Anckner gets a hug from his mom (credit: CBS)

After Matt told his mother about the abuse investigators discovered that his 15-year-old step brother had abused an additional 36 victims.

Matt is now one of the faces behind Denver’s Start By Believing campaign. The goal is to improve the public’s response to sex assault.

Matt Anckner (credit: CBS)

Matt Anckner (credit: CBS)

A friend or family member is typically the first person who the victim confides in after an assault, and that person’s reaction — if negative — can make the trauma worse, and even stop the predator from facing consequences. Sex assaults are one of the most under-reported crimes.

“The number one reasons why victims do not report sexual assault is that they don’t believe they will be believed,” Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said.

Start By Believing will provide first-responders with specialized training, which includes explaining a victim’s options, but also creates a conversation in the community.

LINK: Start By Believing