CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, a time where the community can come together to support victims and survivors of abuse.
“Being able to designate a time to sexual assault awareness really allows us to take some time to focus on why we need to raise awareness, what it means for people who have experienced sexual assault, and ways we can prevent future violence from happening,” said Brittany Sherman, prevention educator for Centre Safe.
In Centre County, local resource, Centre Safe (formerly), says their number of calls has slightly declined over the past year.
That’s the opposite of the national average, which has seen an increase.
“The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network has seen a very large increase in people reaching out to their hotline, especially among children,” said Sherman. “Minors, they’ve seen the biggest jump in reaching out to their hotline since the pandemic has started.”
They say this is a worry as it’s likely some victims were not able to reach out for support during the pandemic’s stay-at-home periods.
“Of course there’s no really good way for us to collect that information and know for sure, so we kind of hope that that very tiny decrease has been because there wasn’t as much need, but we also know its very likely there were some victims and survivors who weren’t able to reach out because they were kind of locked in with their abusers,” said Sherman.
If you’re experienced assault or abuse, there’s a variety of resources available depending on your situation.
“There’s no exact right first step,” said Sherman. “We tell our survivors that we talk to, ‘You know your situation best’.”
For some people, reaching out to law enforcement may be the first step. If you are in need of a list of local resources who can help you develop a safety plan, here is a list of options.
Across our region, signs of support are popping up, such as blue rocks and blue ribbons scattered in neighborhoods.
“What that really shows is that we’re providing safe places in these counties for people to go to,” said Sherman. “Either it gives someone the information and… prompts them to learn more. Or, a survivor sees that and feels supported. Or, a victim sees that and knows that’s maybe a safe place they can go to for help.”