April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, said Kylee Graves, Family Crisis Center executive director, addressing the Barton County Commission Wednesday morning. The commission went on to adopt proclamations marking both observances.
“We have a lot going on at the Family Crisis Center,” Graves said. She encouraged folks to follow their social media and check out their website.
She introduced Aimee Norris, Domestic and Sexual Violence Center program director, and Braeley Hammeke, FCC Child Advocacy Center program director, who read the proclamations.
Sexual assault month
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is intended to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence, Norris said. The Family Crisis Center provides services for sexual assault survivors at no charge and offers educational and professional training for community members and professionals.
“Sexual violence is a widespread, preventable, public health problem in Kansas,” Norris said. “Sexual violence is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will, which includes sexual assault, rape, unwanted touching, threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism and verbal sexual harassment; and all types of sexual violence involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent, or who refuse to allow the act.”
She said one in three women and nearly one in six men experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetimes. One incident of rape is reported to Kansas law enforcement every seven hours, 20 minutes and 55 seconds, and over 5,300 people receive services for sexual assault from Kansas victim advocacy organizations each year.
However, “these statistics do not represent the true prevalence of sexual violence due to underreporting,” Norris said. Sex offenders often target people they perceive as vulnerable, less powerful or less credible, and the offender is known to the victim in the vast majority of cases – 80% in Kansas.
“The effects of sexual violence may be felt directly after or for many months or years later,” she said. Confusion, anger, sadness, shame, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness and self-blame are all common reactions to sexual violence.
Norris said the Center provides 24/7/365 free and confidential services to victims of sexual violence in Barton, Barber, Comanche, Edwards, Kiowa, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush and Stafford Counties. It is also available 24/7/365 at 620-792-1885 and the state-wide Kansas Crisis Hotline is available at 1-888-363-2287.
Child abuse prevention
The Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month proclamation states that child abuse and neglect can be reduced by making sure families have the support needed to raise children in a healthy environment and that there are dedicated individuals and organizations in Barton County working to counter these problems, Hammeke said.
“Preventing child abuse and neglect is a community problem that requires all citizens to be involved,” she said. “Child maltreatment occurs when people find themselves in stressful situations without community resources and don’t know how to cope.”
Child abuse and neglect can be reduced by making sure families have the support they need to raise their children in healthy environment, Hammeke said. In Barton County, there are “dedicated individuals and organizations that work daily to counter the problem of child abuse and neglect and help parents obtain the assistance they need.”
“All children deserve freedom from verbal abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse and neglect,” she said. “All children deserve to have warm homes, loving hugs, tender care, parents and adults who listen and promote self-esteem, give quality time, provide necessary food shelter, clothing and attention.”
Effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of partnerships created among social service agencies, schools, faith communities, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community, she said. Partnerships and collaborations include The Center, Kansas Children’s Service League, Central Kansas Court Appointed Special Advocates, Department for Children and Families, St. Francis Ministries, Child Abuse Prevention and Education, University of Kansas Health Systems – Great Bend Campus SANE program, 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services and law enforcement officers.
These organizations “work daily to address child abuse and neglect,” Hammeke said.