A joint presentation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month was made by Safe Haven of Pike County and Victim’s Intervention Program (VIP) before the Pike County commissioners, April 17. The annual observance, held in April, included numerous events hosted by the organizations.

MILFORD - A joint presentation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month was made by Safe Haven of Pike County and Victim’s Intervention Program (VIP) before the Pike County commissioners, April 17. The annual observance, held in April, included numerous events hosted by the organizations.

Safe Haven, based in Milford, extends service across Pike County. VIP, which has its main office in Honesdale, covers Wayne County and has also extended service to victims in Pike.

Grim statistics

Sobering statistics speak of the urgency of the matter, highlighted on the proclamation issued by the commissioners.

One in five women and one in 67 men will be raped during their lifetime.

One in six boys and one in four girls will experience sexual assault before the age of 18.

Someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every 98 seconds.

Survivors are often blamed for the violence and/or not believed when they come forward. More than half of sexual assaults are never reported to police. This notes that the progress made in supporting victims has not been enough, the proclamation notes.

Michelle Minor-Wolf, Executive Director, VIP, thanked Safe Haven’s Executive Director, Christina Byrne, for suggesting that they make the presentation together this year.

Wolf noted that Sexual Assault Awareness Month began years ago in London, with a single protest. This led to a week-long event to raise awareness, and in 1990 it became a month-long observance. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape funds 42 centers in the 67 counties across the state.

Consent

The national theme this year, she said, is about “consent.” Wolf noted that the problem of sexual assault is not only physical context, but also sexual harassment.

For years the emphasis has been limited to helping people to prevent from becoming a victim. “Really, if we’re ever going to stop this terrible crime it’s going to be on teaching people not to do it in the first place,” Wolf said. Education is needed on what “consent” means, she said.

The misconception exists that if he or she doesn’t explicitly say, “no,” then he or she must have given consent to the sexual activity. Some people aren’t able to give consent, such as someone intoxicated, she said.

“We really need men in the movement to help,” Wolf said. “…I think it’s men who can really make a difference. Part of that is the whole culture of sexual assault is that people act as if it’s OK…. “ Degrading jokes about women have to stop, and men can help by standing up and asking that this sort of joking not take place.

VIP has two people certified to provide sexual harassment prevention training in the workplace.

Trauma affects memory

Christina Byrne of Safe Haven discusses the research done on trauma and how it can impact memory. The impact is worldwide and regardless of culture. When traumatized, there is a chemical reaction in the brain that changes the way the memory is stored and retrieved, she said.

That is why a victim may not recall the details. This adds to the culture of not believing the victim, Byrne said. This helps answer the question of why a victim did not come forward.
Sexual violence pervades movies, video games and TV programs. Sexual violence becomes “normalized.”

Victims hesitate to come forward also because they fear being blamed about what she was wearing, why was she drinking, why did she go there. “We need to change the conversation to say, what can we do keep our community safe,” Byrne said.

She asked the public to consider what role they play if a victim does disclose to them. “It’s really important that you listen, and you believe and respect what they are saying,” she said.”Don’t question them, are you sure that this happened…” Then, help the person seek help for the type of services they may need.

Statute of limitations

There  is legislation in Pennsylvania that is seeking to raise the statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault. Byrne said that currently, if you were victimized as a child, you have until 12 years after you turn 18, to seek legal recourse. If you are assaulted over the age of 18, you have two years to come forward.

The average age for a victim coming forward, however, is 52. Byrne said that she believes the legislators are seeking to raise the age of when you can still seek legal recourse if you were a child victim, to the age of 55.

Byrne suggested that the public contact their legislators to support this measure.

Take Back the Night

In support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, VIP is hosting Take Back the Night and The Cooperage Project, Wednesday, April 24, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m., at The Cooperage, 1030 Main St.,Honesdale. The program is meant to empower victims in their healing process by educating the public.

Safe Haven of Pike County held a candlelight vigil on April 18 in Milford.



For more information:

Safe Haven of Pike County,
402 Broad St., Milford, PA 18337
Website: shopcempowers.org
www.facebook.com/SafeHavenofPikeCounty/
Office phone 570-296-2827
24-hour crisis hotline, 570-296-HELP (4357)

Victim’s Intervention Program
P.O. Box 986, Honesdale, PA 18431
Website: www.vipempowers.org
www.facebook.com/EventsforVIP/?ref=settings
24-hour crisis hotline, 1-800-698-4VIP (4847)
570-253-4401