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Respecting boundaries

Crook County Family Violence hangs ribbons for awareness

 

April 16, 2020



Three important anniversaries mark the month of April, each linked to a person’s right to have their boundaries respected. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month with Crime Victim Rights Week from April 19 to 25.

If you see ribbons hanging in public places this month, know that Crook County Family Violence and Sexual Assault Services (CCFF) is using their bright colors to honor all three occasions and spread awareness of their importance.

The blue ribbons and pinwheels represent child abuse awareness. The teal ribbons stand for sexual assault awareness. The navy and green represent crime victim rights.

“We all have a right to safety in our daily lives to have our boundaries respected and make choices about what happens to our bodies-at home, school, the workplace and in public places,” says Sandy Stevens, Executive Director for CCFF.

“That sense of wellbeing and safety can be taken away by knowing that sexual assault, harassment and abuse are common and not always taken seriously.”

Sexual Violence

When it comes to sexual violence, Stevens would like to bring attention to the idea that the individuals who perpetrate these crimes and the victims who suffer them are not the only ones to blame.

“We need to hold individuals who commit abuse accountable, but we can’t stop there when it comes to ending sexual assault altogether,” she says.

“Focusing solely on individual perpetrators and instances of sexual assault, harassment and abuse is often easier than facing the reality that this type of violence is widespread and common, and the driving forces behind it are hard to see.”

When we think about preventing sexual assault, our ideas usually head straight towards ways an individual person can keep themselves safe. If we shift this towards altering the way we think as a society, we can help reduce the prevalence of these types of crime.

Stevens argues that our individual values and behaviors are shaped by the unwritten rules around us. These can be found in everything from laws and policies to pop culture.

It’s because of this that Stevens feels we need to come together to change the status quo.

“Our efforts to stop sexual assault before it happens must go beyond changing individual. We must improve expectations for how we interact with one another, strengthen policies to support survivors and promote safety throughout our community,” she says.

We can all contribute, Stevens says. Consider wearing a teal ribbon to show your support and educate yourself on what the idea of asking for consent and respecting the answer really means – it affects more interactions than we may realize.

You can visit nsvrc.org to download a guide that not only defines consent, but also walks through the considerations we should all keep in mind before, during and after we ask for consent. The guide points out that consent is a skill, and it’s one we get better at as we practice.

Stevens also recommends challenging jokes that demean other people and maintaining and modeling healthy relationships.

“Encourage children to respect others’ boundaries and bodies, challenge unfair gender stereotypes, and treat others with respect,” she continues. “Improve policies and practices within faith communities, community organizations, workplaces and schools to ensure everyone is treated fairly.”

Stevens advocates that we support legislation that is aimed towards supporting survivors.

“We can take these steps and more to work towards a safer and more equal world for future generations,” she says.

The idea of these and other efforts to improve our accountability as a society is to stop sexual assault, harassment and abuse before they happen. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center points out that, while it might feel like too big a challenge, it’s nothing we haven’t done before: think of the stigma today around second-hand smoke, when it was once common practice to smoke everywhere from restaurants to airplanes.

Child Abuse Prevention

National Child Abuse Prevention Month is about the importance of families and the community working together to prevent the abuse and neglect of children, as well as promoting the emotional and social wellbeing of children and families.

“Did you know that, nationally, there are millions of children who are abused each year? On average, five children die each day due to abuse or neglect, and there are over 65,000 sexual abuse cases,” says Stevens.

“In Crook County, according to Clint Hanes, Wyoming Department of Family Services Public Information Officer, in 2019 there were 12 cases substantiated in Crook County. “

This is a time for all of us to increase our awareness of the problem and educate ourselves about preventing child abuse and neglect, Stevens says.

Crime Victim Rights

This week in April has been recognized since 1981 and is dedicated to learning about victimization and the effect it has on individuals, friends, families and the community. It’s also about promoting laws, policies and programs to help the victims of crime, says Stevens.

According to Victim Support Services, every year, thousands of communities across the nation honor the dedication of those before us that established victim rights and renew commitment to guarantee that all victims have the rights and services they need to recover from crime.

The theme for this year is “Seek Justice, Ensure Victims’ Rights, Inspire Hope”, which is about celebrating the progress made by those who came before us while we look forward to a future of crime victim services that is even more inclusive, accessible and trauma-informed.

“Crook County Family Violence along with Crook County Attorney Victim Witness Coordinator Dave Osborne will be doing our part by placing awareness ribbons and Information material throughout Crook County in the month of April,” Stevens says.

 
 

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