Crisis Center: Don’t turn blind eye to sex assault

Published 11:15 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

One in four girls and one in six boys.

That’s the percentage of girls and boys across the nation who are victims of sexual assault before the age of 18.

Though it’s a sobering statistic, it is one the advocates at the Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center hope to spread during the month of April — which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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“It’s pretty significant that sexual assault occurs that frequently,” said Ilene Grosam, a CVCC advocate. “People don’t think it happens that much.”

Grosam said every two minutes in the country a person is sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence that can be defined as the use of sexual actions and words that are unwanted or harmful to another person, she said.

It is typically a coercive act, where the victim fears the consequences if he or she does not go along with the perpetrator, she noted.

And it is often underreported.

“Often victims blame themselves for what’s happened, that it’s their fault, so they’re very uncomfortable and unwilling to go to the police and report that they’ve been assaulted,” she said.

Children, as well, who have been assaulted, can find it very confusing, particularly if it is someone that they’ve known and trusted who has done something to them.

She said in 2009, the CVCC served 30 primary or secondary sexual assault victims.

To help raise awareness of the issue and point toward prevention of it, Grosam said CVCC staff are distributing teal ribbons at various locations throughout Albert Lea in April.

CVCC staff have also sent out letters to clergy members in the community to discuss sexual assault awareness.

They hope to have an Internet safety course for teens and adults in the next few months and will distribute prom packs to students in Freeborn County, which include information about appropriate dating relationships and red flags that may be occurring.

Grosam encouraged people who are sexual assault victims to contact the CVCC.

“Give us a call, we’re here to help,” she said. “It’s a safe place and all of our services are confidential.”

Through contact with the CVCC, a victim can get emotional support, accompaniment for emergency room exams and assistance with their case as it moves through the court system.

CVCC also has programs that are able to help with counseling, and if there are physical injuries that resulted from the assault, CVCC can assist in helping the victim get some compensation for that.

“Oftentimes some kind of counseling, group therapy may be helpful in the recovery process,” Grosam said.

In April, CVCC staff will also talk to a couple classes at Albert Lea High School, meet with law enforcement to thank them for their role in helping victims, and host an informational display at Northbridge Mall.

Advocates can be reached at 377-5460 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

After hours, people can call the 24-hour phone line, which is 373-2223.