By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, one in five women and one in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime, and on average, almost 500 women are raped or sexually assaulted each day in the United States.
The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence says that in Kansas, approximately 245,000 women and 40,000 men will be raped in their lifetime and many more Kansans will experience other forms of sexual violence.
April is known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Liberal Area Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Services (LARC/DVS) continues to work in the area, offering several different services including individual advocacy, group support, criminal justice advocacy and temporary emergency shelter.
Lori Hensley, executive director of LARC/DVS, says that sexual assault is becoming a growing epidemic.
“Many people think that because we live in rural America it doesn’t happen here but it does,” she said. “If you would look at statistics there’s probably as much or more sexual assault per capita in a rural community than there is in a large metropolitan area and the one thing that people need to understand is very few people that are violated by sexual assaults that it’s a stranger.”
In fact, the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence says that approximately 78.5 percent of Kansas rape offenders were known by their victims. However, Hensley says that there is a large amount of sexual assaults that go unreported.
“We do know from different statistics that come through law enforcement, criminal justice and the court systems, that there’s a larger portion of sexual assault victims than we are servicing at our center,” she said.
Hensley also explained the process of what happens when victims come through the doors. Once they come in, the center assigns an advocate and then an intake of information, After the information is taken, it is determined what services the center offers that the victim may need.
“Different individuals use different pieces and parts of our services,” she said. “Our services are all free and voluntary so therefore we don’t say ‘you need to do this’ but we give them the option of those services to choose from.”
The services offered by LARC/DVS go outside the center and work in schools and other places in the nearby area. One of the strongest ones is the prevention classes that are taught by Sadie Madden, the lead advocate and children’s advocate/risk prevention director.
Madden visits Ulysses three times a week and Johnson once a week to give this class. She also maintains a curriculum prevention and safe dating class once a month at Southwestern Heights High School who LARC/DVS has worked with for the last seven years.
“We cover the red flags to look for when they’re dating,” Madden said. “When we finish, students should be able to tell the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.”
Hensley and Madden said that the best advice she can give to those who have been violated by sexual assault is to come forward and seek help.
“What we do is we are here to advocate, to help them in their healing process,” she said. “The biggest thing they need to understand is that when they walk in our door and they tell us that are a victim of sexual assault we’re going to believe them, that’s the first thing and the most important thing.”
“When someone has experienced a sexual assault, the first thing for an advocate to do is be supportive,” added Madden. “We let them know that they’re not alone and that we’re here as a support system and we let them know that it’s not their fault and they shouldn’t have to go through something like that. We’re here to help.”
The Liberal Area Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Services is located at 909 N. Clay and can be reached 24 hours a day at 620-624-8818 and 1-888-417-7273 to talk to an advocate.
IF YOU ARE THE VICTIM OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE:
• Your immediate safety is important. Get to a safe place such as a friend or family member’s home.
• Get support. Local sexual assault programs can provide free and confidential support and advocacy for you and your friends and family
• Protect your health. You may have a range of health concerns as a result of the sexual violence. It is best to seek medical care as soon as possible
• Reporting the violence is your choice. Depending on the type of sexual violence you’ve experienced, you may consider reporting to law enforcement, an employer, a school official or other person. Many factors may weigh into this decision to report or not to report the violence. There is no right way to handle the effects of sexual violence. If you decide to report the violence to someone, it is important to explore the potential effects of the report on your work, school career and all areas of your life. A local sexual assault program advocate will be able to more fully help you understand the process in your area and to support you through it. If you decide not to report to anyone, you are still fully entitled to advocacy services and medical care.
Info courtesy: Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence
L&T Graphic/Elly Grimm