Oswego, NY – During the month of April, communities and victim service providers across the United States will be hosting events and campaigns in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about the epidemic issue of sexual violence in our country and to educate individuals on the impact and prevention of sexual violence in our communities.
Locally, Oswego County Opportunities’ (OCO) Services to Aid Families program will join the effort to raise the awareness of sexual assault.
“This year’s theme of It’s time…to talk about it, encourages individuals and communities to bring healthy sexuality into the conversation on how we connect with and respect one another in order to prevent sexual violence. It is important for all members of Oswego County to no longer allow silence in order to address the destructive and ever present issue of sexual assault and abuse throughout Oswego County,” said SAF education program manager Meredith Needham.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey only 46 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that nearly 20 percent of the country’s population has experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lifetime.
With one-fifth of the population directly affected by sexual violence and more than half of those affected living in silence, OCO’s SAF program will be reaching out to community members, local agencies, and businesses to assist them in raising awareness of sexual violence in our community.
“SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for over 30 years,” explained Needham. “To move towards the creation of a violence free community and to commemorate April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SAF will be hosting special events and activities throughout the county during the month of April.”
Needham said that the SAF Program has collaborated with a number of area bars, pizza shops, and restaurants and will be hanging posters, distributing cocktail napkins addressing drug facilitated sexual assault, sharing information on table tops, and on pizza boxes.
In addition, the SAF program will be at various public locations throughout Oswego County during the month to share information, raise awareness, and open the dialogue on preventing sexual assault.
“We will also be participating in The Clothesline Project, a national campaign in which those affected by abuse and violence decorate T-shirts displaying messages reflecting the long lasting impact of sexual violence on the lives of victims, their loved ones and families. The decorated T-shirts will be hung at DSS in Mexico and at the OCO office at Midtown Plaza in Oswego. We appreciate the many individuals and business who are showing their support for the end of sexual violence in Oswego County by assisting us in our efforts,” said Needham.
In recognition of National Crime Victims Week, April 22-28, SAF is inviting Oswego County community members to join them at the 12th Annual SAF Tree Planting Ceremony on April 26 at 4 p.m. at Farmers’ Market Park located at the intersection of routes 69 and 69A in the town of Parish.
“The tree is meant to be a living sign of hope for those affected by crime that their community has not forgotten about them and supports them in their struggles to rebuild their lives,” said Needham. “In keeping with the theme of this year’s National Crime Victims Week, Extending the vision reaching every victim, it is the goal of the SAF Program to plant a tree in every city, town and village throughout Oswego County to demonstrate that victimization occurs in all areas of our community and can affect anyone. SAF would especially like to recognize that this event would not be possible without the generous donation of the tree from Lowe’s and the support of the town and village of Parish.”
Each day, people witness a continuum of behaviors that range from being respectful and safe, to sexually abusive and violent. According to Needham, individuals need accurate information about relationships, sexuality and positive behaviors to ensure the opportunity to make healthy choices as these choices impact our lives, loved ones, communities and society.
“All of us have a role in building safe, healthy relationships and communities. When we start the conversation about healthy sexuality, we raise awareness and expand our opportunities to reach every victim. Prevent sexual violence by talking about it.
As members of the Oswego County community you have many opportunities to speak up against sexual violence including:
Modeling respectful behavior to those around you.
Being an active bystander. Intervene and speak up when you see inappropriate behavior. To better equip yourself in these situations, practice what you might say or do.
Talk with your children about their bodies and personal boundaries.
Learn more about sexual violence and share information with others.
Talk to each other about healthy sexuality and what it means
Members of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, victim service providers from across the United States and specifically the SAF Program stand in solidarity to say, It’s time … to talk about it Oswego County!
“Ending sexual violence will not be possible without the support of our community members. We challenge you to help engage men, women and children in sexual assault prevention and awareness. In standing as one and opening the dialogue, Oswego County can realize the goal of establishing environments where people are safe and respected in their relationships, families, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and communities-where victims can come forward safely and receive the support they deserve and are entitled to,” said Needham.
For more information about how you can get involved, to learn more about sexual violence or if you or someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence or stalking please call the Abuse & Assault Hotline at (315) 342-1600.
The hotline is staffed by trained counselors and is available 24 hours, with collect calls accepted within Oswego County.
OCO, Inc is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966.
A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 80 separate locations.
For more information, visit www.oco.org