Sexual Assault Awareness Month. A very special night with friends.

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Few understand the strength it takes to admit to being a victim of sexual abuse and violence.

Fewer still understand the road toward healing.

This is why I speak, though often stammering and ineloquent. 

I speak for the sake of others.

Here is one example.

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Last Thursday evening I had the privilege of being the featured speaker at the Lawrenceburg, Indiana, DIRECTIONS! Support & Advocacy Services, a program of Community Mental Health Center, annual Take Back the Night event. According to the press release, The Directions! event is held during national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to promote awareness of sexual assault and related crimes and the impact of these crimes on society.  According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (R.A.I.N.N.), someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. Forty-four percent of victims are under the age of 19, and 80 percent are under the age of 30. Sadly, only about 46% of all sexual assaults are reported to police.

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“Sexual violence is an epidemic in our country and our communities. Survivors feel shame, guilt and fear of public ridicule. Rape has lasting affects on every aspect of a victim’s life, while, according to R.A.I.N.N., 97% of all perpetrators never spend a day in jail.”

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Take Back the Night is a national campaign to bring greater awareness to the violent crimes of rape and sexual assault. 2013 marks the seventh consecutive year Directions! has hosted their event. It is the second time I’ve been the featured speaker. The evening featured inspirational messages from survivors and information on key strategies to use when confronted by sexual predators. Participants also learned how to help raise awareness in their communities about rape and sexual assault and about how to make a difference in the lives of survivors.

IMG_0725“Change comes from the courage survivors speaking out,” said Catherine Dwyer, Directions! Program Manager. “It also comes from the courage of each individual citizen who stands up and speaks out against sexual crimes. ‘Take Back the Night’ is the perfect opportunity to join your voice with the voice of other courageous survivors and citizens working to end sexual violence.” (See Cathy and I, pictured at right. Love that woman!)

The most incredible part of the evening for me is always The Clothesline Project on display. Originating in Massachusetts in 1990, The Clothesline Project now encompasses more than 500 communities and several foreign countries. It has become a worldwide campaign bringing awareness to violence against women.  Shirts featured in the display were created by survivors and family members and friends of survivors in our communities. The Clothesline Project offers a visual tribute to the courage of all survivors.

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If you or someone you know is a victim of rape or sexual assault, please do not hesitate to seek help. RAINN has a hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

It’s never too late to heal.

And healing is never out of your reach.

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Dearborn County Prosecutor, Aaron Negangard, stands in front of The Clothesline Project display and speaks on behalf of protecting survivors and on the legal advances of prosecuting perpetrators. So inspiring to see him there, as well as many law enforcement officers and violent crime first responders.

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Here are more pictures of the event, as well as t-shirts created by survivors.

They speak louder than any words I could pen.

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