Sexual assault: Become part of the solution

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    By Terri Lynn Oldham House

    On Tuesday, both Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs approved proclamations recognizing the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

    Rise Above Violence requested support from our local governmental entities in this endeavor. 

    Rise is a local nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The nonprofit works to ensure victims’ rights are exercised and that their needs are met.

    According to Rise’s website, “Sexual Assault/Abuse is sexual contact without consent. Contact can include rape, inappropriate/unwanted touching, incest and attempted rape.”

    The local proclamations explain that sexual assault affects every person in our community in some form, whether as a victim, a family member, a friend, a child, a neighbor or a co-worker; and it is more important than ever to support victims of sexual violence in our community so they know they are not alone.

    The proclamations continue:

    “WHEREAS, 55 victims of sexual assault were served by Rise Above Violence last year, and we know there are many more who haven’t reached out for help; and

    “WHEREAS, Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted; and

    “WHEREAS, Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment impact our community as seen by statistics indicating that one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives; and

    “WHEREAS, One in three teens will experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend this year; and

    “WHEREAS, One in six boys and one in four girls will experience sexual assault before the age of 18; and

    “WHEREAS, We must work together to educate our community about what can be done to prevent sexual assault and support survivors and victims to ensure they are provided the help needed to heal from sexual violence; and

    “WHEREAS, ‘Sexual Assault Awareness Month’ and ‘Denim Day’ were also instituted to call attention to misconceptions and misinformation about sexual violence, and the problem that many in society remain disturbingly uninformed with respect to issues of sexual harassment, assault, abuse, and rape; and

    “WHEREAS, With proper education on the matter and comprehensive prevention projects, sexual violence and its unfair and traumatizing effects are preventable.

    “THEREFORE, we, … proclaim the month of April 2021 as SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH … We wish for our citizens and visitors to know there is always help available through Rise Above Violence and we will show our support throughout this month and the entire year.”

    If you are a victim of sexual assault,  a Rise advocate can assist you at any time.  

    “We can be at the hospital with you or be with you if you decide to speak with a law enforcement officer. You did not decide to be victimized. A rapist decided to rape. Call our 24-hour hotline at (970) 264-9075 any time, day or night. We’re here to listen and support you,” states the website www.riseaboveviolence.org.

    We encourage you to get involved with Rise’s activities this month: 

    • Push-Up Challenge, a month-long virtual challenge where you commit to 25 push-ups a day.

    • Coffee Talk with Rise on Facebook Live April 22 at 9 a.m. to discuss current issues in our community.  

    • Denim Day walk on April 28 at noon.  Meet at the bell tower and take a walk around main street to demonstrate support for victims and survivors in our community.

    We commend our dedicated advocates at Rise for their efforts in bringing the important conversation about sexual assault to the forefront in Archuleta County.

    We thank those courageous survivors for their strength and resilience, and for standing for justice.

    We can all become part of the solution in Archuleta County to support victims of sexual violence. They are not alone.