There’s a certified 5K this weekend raising awareness of sexual violence

For all you runners and walkers and supporters of survivors of sexual violence, there’s an event this weekend you don’t want to miss.

First, I should back up and say that I owe all the wonderful people working on behalf of survivors of sexual trauma a huge apology.  April is Sexual Violence Awareness month, and here we are at the end of the month and this survivor of sexual violence has failed to do a post about the subject!

So it’s a great honor to let folks know that there is a 5K happening in Waterville this Sunday dedicated to raising funds for and raising awareness of the issue of sexual violence. The event is being sponsored by Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center, providing a variety of services to Somerset and Kennebec counties, including a statewide crisis support line:

Maine State Wide Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Line  1-800-871-7741

24 hour, Confidential, Maine State-wide Sexual Assault Support line.

 This line is staffed by trained and experienced Advocates who will listen and support you in any questions or feelings you may have regarding your experiences relating to sexual violence. This is a great place to call if you feel overwhelmed by your experiences and just need to talk to someone who understands. There will be no judgments, only support. Family and friends of survivors of sexual violence are also welcome to call.

 By calling 1-800-871-7741 You will speak with our answering service who will ask your first name only and page an advocate to call you back within a few minutes.

In the interest of disclosure, I did some project work for the organization in the early 2000s, and amazingly, executive director and advocate extraordinaire Donna Strickler is still heading the operation. Her dedication to the cause is beyond words, and I’m proud to call her a friend.

I had a chance to talk to Sarah Bangs, development and communications manager at SACS Ctr. about the event taking place Sunday morning at Thomas College. Bangs said they’ve maintained a consistent following of 500-600 participants leading the organization to expand participation to 700 and to have the course certified by U.S. Track and Field for participants who are serious walkers/runners.

Runners/walkers at previous 5K. Photo provided by and used with the permission of SACS Ctr.

Bangs said there are still slots available for the Sunday event and the online pre-registration ($5 cost) is available until 2 p.m. Friday. (Click here to register.) Medals are awarded for the top finishers, and there are fun award categories, as well, like “Most Team Spirit” award as teams are encouraged to participate.

Prior winners of the team spirit award. Photo provided by and used with the permission of SACS Ctr.

Prior winners of a team spirit award. Photo provided by and used with the permission of SACS Ctr.

Bangs also provided some facts regarding sexual violence and how to support sexual violence survivors, which I am happy to share:

FACT: Chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted.

  • Sexual violence affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. However, social inequalities can heighten the risk.
  • By age 18, 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted; by age 18, 1 in 6 boys will be assaulted (Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis & Smith, 1990).
  • At some time in their lives, 1 in 6 women have experienced an attempted or completed rape; more than half occurred before the woman was 18, and 22% before age 12 (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
  • During their lives, 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape; 75% occurred before the men were 18, and 48% before age 12 (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

FACT: Victims usually know their assaulter.

People who sexually assault usually attack someone they know — a friend, classmate, neighbor, coworker, or relative.

  • Of adults, 73% knew the attacker, 38% were friends of the attacker, 28% were an intimate partner of the attacker, and 7% were a relative of the attacker (Maston & Klaus, 2005).
  • Child victims knew the offender before the attack 90% of the time (Greenfeld, 1996).
  • About 40% of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s own home. Another 20% occur in the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative (Greenfeld, 1997).
  • FACT: Victims are never at fault for a sexual assault.
  • It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing or how they are acting, no one asks to be raped.
  • People who sexually assault often use force, threat, or injury.
  • An absence of injuries to the victim does not indicate the victim consented.

 FACT: Rape is the least reported and convicted violent crime in the U.S.

There are many reasons why victims may choose not to report to law enforcement or tell anyone about what happened to him/her. Some include:

Concern for not being believed

  • Fear of the attackers getting back at him/her
  • Embarrassment or shame
  • Fear of being blamed
  • Pressure from others not to tell
  • Distrust of law enforcement
  • Belief that there is not enough evidence
  • Desire to protect the attacker
  • Many victims who do report a rape or sexual assault find that there is no arrest or conviction.
  • Probability of arrest after a report is 50.8% (Reynolds, 1999) and the probability of a rapist being sent to prison is 16.3% (Reynolds, 1999).

FACT: Sexual violence is preventable.

By working with your community’s sexual assault center, you can:

Model supportive relationships and behaviors with your friends and families

  •  Stand up for victims and believe them.
  •  Speak up when you hear harmful comments or witness violent acts.
  •  Create policies at your workplace or school system to stop sexual violence and help victims.
  •  Coordinate a community event to raise awareness about sexual violence or talk with community members about ways they can get involved.
  • Talk with your legislators and ask them to support prevention and victim services.

The Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center provides free, confidential services to Kennebec and Somerset Counties:

– A 24 hour, confidential, statewide, Crisis Support Line: 1-800-871-7741
– Support Groups for survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, and for non-offending parents of children who have been sexually abused
– Crisis intervention and information
-Support and advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and their families
– Advocacy for survivors who chose to seek medical attention, report to the police, or go through the criminal justice system
– Referral to appropriate agencies and individuals in the community
– Community and professional education
– Children’s Advocacy Center: A program of the SAC&SC, serving Kennebec and Somerset Counties using evidence-based best practices to provide a safe, neutral and child-centered place for timely and coordinated evaluation/response of children following an allegation of sexual abuse

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.