Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Your voice has power

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    By Ashley Wilson
    Rise Above Violence 

    We need to give a voice to the child who is being sexually abused at home, to the teen who is being harassed and assaulted at school or out in our community, to the women and men who do not tell because they are afraid or ashamed. We. Are. Their. Voice. Shout out with Rise Above Violence that our community will support survivors, that they have a place, that they have hope and that healing is possible.

    When we begin to use our voices collectively to condemn sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape; when we begin to talk about these things for what they are — they are a choice of the harasser, the abuser and the rapist. When we stop sugar coating the horrible truth of what these forms of violence do to the individual, the family and the community; when we end the silence that protects the perpetrator; then we begin to see how sexual violence can end in our community.

    Use your voice not just in April, but all year to support victims and survivors of sexual violence. There are many ways you can use your voice. 1) Believe victims — if a friend, co-worker, child or anyone else tells you, believe them. 2) Encourage others to learn more — if you know the facts, share them with community members who may not understand the issues. 3) Get involved — Rise Above Violence always needs volunteers: crisis hotline volunteers and special event or office volunteers. 4) Break the silence — silence is what keeps victims living in shame instead of freedom. Silence lets the abuser get away with it. Silence is not part of the solution.

    The solution is creating a community where violence is not tolerated, where we as individual community members hold each other accountable for things we say and actions we take. How we talk about sexual violence matters. One voice cannot change the dialogue, but all of our voices can. Most importantly, we need to give a voice to those who are too afraid to speak.

    If you are a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, there is help. Rise Above Violence is a nonprofit organization that provides free services to victims and survivors. Whether it has been 10 minutes or 10 years, our advocates are here to help you. There is no obligation to report to law enforcement; our advocates will help you understand all your choices. You are not alone. Call 264-9075 for 24/7 support.

    Pagosa Springs is an amazing community. There are so many ways people are supported and so many groups doing great work. In all of these cases, thank you for embracing your voice for causes that help our town be better, do better and provide such a sense of community.

    Join us this month for Sexual Assault Awareness activities: 

    • Push-Up Challenge, a month-long virtual challenge where you commit to 25 push-ups a day. It’s not too late, you can join us today. 

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

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

    To find out more about these activities, go to our website, www.riseaboveviolence.org, or follow us on Facebook.