Sexual assault awareness month: Raising community awareness in the wake of #MeToo

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By Ashley Wilson
Special to The PREVIEW
With so many stories coming to the surface in the fall of last year and the national coverage of the #MeToo movement, it is time to bring the focus home.
It is easy to say that sexual assault happens to someone else, somewhere else, but the reality is it happens here in our beautiful little mountain town. It happens to people you likely know: Your friend, your sister, your sales clerk, your waitress. Men, women; young, old: Sexual assault spans the gap.
So, no matter what you feel about the national #MeToo movement, the reality is that sexual assault affects every member of our community, directly or indirectly, and it is time that we use our voices to make sure victims know that they are supported.
April is sexual assault awareness month and the 2018 theme is “Embrace Your Voice: Your voice is necessary in this conversation.”
Following are some national statistics:
• Every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
• From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
• One in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
• One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives.
• One in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
In 2017, Rise Above Violence served nine women and 12 children who were victims of sexual abuse, along with their families and friends who are also affected by such violence. But we know that sexual assault is under-reported and that there are many more suffering in our community.
This month is a good time to remember that sexual assault can happen to anyone and that our voices have the power to heal or hurt. Our voices accuse, our voices support, our voices condemn, our voices lift up, our voices shame, our voices can bring relief. Your voice has power; use it to support victims.
Teal is the color of sexual assault awareness month. You will see teal ribbons lining main street this month as a symbol of the efforts to prevent and educate the community about this important issues. Join with Rise in offering a collective voice that says sexual assault is not acceptable in our community. If you are looking for ways to help, join us:
• By wearing teal to show support all month long.
• On April 25, at noon, at the bell tower for the Denim Day Walk.
• On April 27, at 6 p.m., at Crossfit Pagosa for The Original Push-Up Challenge.
Rise is a nonprofit organization which promotes the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence. Rise provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving over 350 victims each year. Rise also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community.
All programs and services are free and confidential including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs. Visit www.riseaboveviolence.org for more information or call 264- 9075 to talk to an advocate today. If you want to be part of the team to help those in our community, volunteers for advocacy are always needed and welcomed.