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OCO Receives Grant To Address Sexual Assault

FULTON, NY – When it comes to addressing the issue of sexual assault in Oswego County education and prevention are of the utmost importance.

Thanks to the unwavering efforts of Senator Patty Ritchie, Oswego County Opportunities Service to Aid Families program will be able to continue and enhance the education and prevention services it offers.

Until recently SAF had received funding for rape crisis through the NYS Department of Health.

These funds were used for sexual assault intervention, education, and prevention services.

When the NYS Office of Victim Services became the new funding source, funds appropriated for sexual assault prevention and education services were eliminated.

The loss of this funding would have had a devastating impact on the SAF program.

Senator Ritchie’s efforts were essential to securing funding and directing those dollars to prevention efforts in Oswego County.

Without those efforts it would not have happened.

“Education and prevention is a large part of what the SAF program does,” said Director of OCO Crisis Services Eric Bresee. “SAF provides information and education on sexual assault issues and the services available to address these issues. SAF educators offer age appropriate prevention education to high school, middle school, and college students as well as community members, professionals, and organizations.”

SAF educators use a curriculum that focuses on healthy relationships, signs of sexual abuse, dating violence, and consent.

Classroom education is offered in up to 10 sessions and can be tailored to the each school’s needs.

The funding that Senator Ritchie was able to procure allows for SAF educators to continue to be in the schools and provide ongoing education that teaches young people that any form of negative behavior regarding sexual abuse is unacceptable.

Students learn how to intervene if they witness this happening to a friend, who to talk to if they are being victimized, information about crisis hotlines, and how to access resources to deal with sexual abuse issues.

“It’s proven that the earlier you begin talking about these issues with youth the more likely you are to prevent the trauma of sexual abuse. If we are ever going to be able to change the way people think about sexual abuse and assault and have them realize that it is not acceptable to treat women this way it has to begin with educating young people. To achieve the paradigm shift we seek we need to get the message out that this type of behavior is not cool. When we begin seeing positive peer pressure that gets that point across that’s when we’ll see a real change. That’s why it is so important that Senator Ritchie supported this legislation and was able to help secure this funding,” said Bresee.

Senator Ritchie’s efforts did prove essential in directing dollars to sexual abuse prevention education in Oswego County. Without it OCO’s SAF program would not be able to continue to offer the high level of prevention education that it does.

“This funding has assisted OCO in maintaining sexual assault education and primary prevention activities. The ability to address the root causes of sexual assault through education and community mobilization creates a community where consent is the norm, behaviors leading to sexual assault are not tolerated and the rates of sexual violence decrease. We are grateful for the support and leadership that Senator Ritchie has demonstrated to victims and survivors in Oswego County,” said OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier.

“When someone becomes the victim of rape, they can be left with emotional injuries that others simply cannot see,” said Ritchie. “It’s vital that they have the support necessary to recover from such a horrific experience. Oswego County Opportunities is there for those survivors and goes beyond that to spearhead prevention efforts that reduce the occurrence of rape and other types of violence in our region. I’m pleased to be able to deliver this funding, which will help make Central New York safer and provide much needed resources for victims.”

The OCO Services to Aid Families program is the domestic violence and rape crisis program that serves Oswego County.

The goal of SAF is to raise awareness of the epidemic of domestic violence in Oswego country and to educate individuals on the impact of domestic violence in its communities.

If you or someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence or stalking, call the Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is staffed by trained counselors and is available 24 hours.

For more information on the SAF program, contact Sara Gozzi at 315-342-1544 or visit www.oco.org

OCO 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.