Sexual Assault Awareness Month

News from the Noteworthy

Violence Intervention Program aids sexual assault victims

[Editor’s note: Opportunities for Otsego contributes this week’s ‘News from the Noteworthy,’ prepared by Will Rivera, Crisis Intervention Director, and Hannah Bosman, Violence Intervention Program Education and Resource Specialist.]

Opportunities for Otsego’s Violence Intervention Program recognizes the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every 68 seconds, someone in our country is sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is defined as any form of contact or behavior that occurs without any consent from the victim. One out of six women, and three percent of men in our country have been the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. Sexual assault can take various forms such as rape, unwanted touching, knowingly passing along a sexually-transmitted disease, and videotaping without consent.

Opportunity for Otsego’s Violence Intervention Program (VIP) works around-the-clock to support victims of sexual / domestic assault, as well as promoting safe environments and self-worth. The Violence Intervention Program’s Silent Witness Exhibit was created for survivors to share their stories so they can build strength, resilience, awareness, and justice for victims. One anonymous survivor shared they were physically and emotionally abused by their partner. When they disclosed to their family about their abuse, their family was supportive. After securing safe housing, they were able to apply for an order of protection.

The victim said, “I was so happy and felt so safe to be back home and out of his sight.”

The consequences of sexual violence are detrimental; they can have long-lasting effects that can impact a victim’s physical and mental well-being. Showing your support to victims can help them speak out when crimes like this occur and can improve awareness in our community.

After a sexual assault has occurred, it can be very scary for the victim. They may not be sure what to do next. An essential victim support is to ensure they are listened to and know they are believed. This can be accomplished by using phrases such as, “It’s not your fault,” and “I’m sorry this happened.”

In our community, individuals can be active bystanders when witnessing abuse. Being an active bystander is to safely step in and intervene when witnessing these crimes. This may give the person you’re concerned about a chance to get to a safe place or to leave the situation.

Supporting victims in our community also means we need to create changes and hold abusers accountable for their actions. Changes in our local organizations, businesses, schools, and workplace cultures that shift their focus to supporting victims and prevention of sexual assault and abuse provides our community with the tools to understand our role in calling out problematic behavior.

Then we can focus on holding abusers accountable and bringing an end to victim-blaming.

VIP provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and violent crimes so they may find the safety and support they need to live free from abuse. If you or someone you know has been impacted by interpersonal violence, contact VIP, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 607-432-4855. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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