Sexual Assault Awareness Month is recognized nationally as a time to raise awareness about the vastly under-reported, but all too common prevalence of sexual violence in our world. Thankfully, over the years there has been growing support for these survivors with the formation of local, state and national organizations that also seek to educate the public about these heinous crimes. When survivors realize that they are not alone and feel believed and supported, they are more likely to disclose their assaults or abuse. Think about how the #MeToo Movement encouraged survivors to use their voices! It was truly inspirational!
Local and state victim service agencies such as Hope & Healing Survivor Resource Center (which includes the Rape Crisis Center and Battered Women’s Shelter) and the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence offer free information and services that can help survivors choose an individual path to healing following an assault. The Rape Crisis Center offers a confidential 24/7 hotline, advocacy, support groups and individual therapy for survivors in Summit and Medina Counties.
Some people choose to seek justice by working with law enforcement to report these crimes for possible prosecution. Some survivors may decide to file a protection order. Each case may vary based on the facts and the laws. Depending on a survivor’s individual needs, advocates are available at the Rape Crisis Center, the Victim Assistance Program and the prosecutor’s offices at no cost, providing survivors support at each step of the complex justice system process.
As a volunteer court advocate at the Rape Crisis Center for 14 years, I have seen many advancements in community organizations and how they educate the public about sexual violence. One example is the public awareness campaign called “Start by Believing” which was launched by the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office in 2019 because the community’s response to sexual violence is vitally important to helping survivors heal and to holding offenders accountable. Other local groups that collaborate to build community relationships and improve survivor outcomes include the Summit County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and the Summit County Sexual Assault Coalition. In addition, Hope & Healing provides a variety of trainings focusing on sexual violence each year for continuing education for allied professionals.
At the beginning of my career as a volunteer court advocate, I took a self-defense class. The main message that I remembered from that training is “Use your voice! It is your most important weapon!” Perpetrators depend on a victim’s silence to control them and to escape punishment. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Rape Crisis Center joins with the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence to celebrate the courage of survivors with a call to action to “Embrace Your Voice: Build Community!”
Please do your part to support survivors. Listen, learn, believe and use your voice!
Dodie Sacia, RA, CA
Court Watch Coordinator/Advocate (Volunteer)
Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties