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County recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month

by on April 12, 2018 8:56 AM

BELLEFONTE — The "Embrace Your Voice" event to kick off April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month in the county was held at the courthouse annex April 5.

The Centre County Board of Commissioners made the proclamation as members of the local community were recognized for their efforts in combating sexual assault and child abuse in the county. 

“These are folk in our community who have made a difference because they have changed the part of the world where they live and work, and they have done it a long time through difficult situations, and they continue to do it every day,” said Anne Ard, executive director of the Centre County Woman's Resource Center, as she recognized Andrea Fisher, of the Youth Service Bureau, and Donna Aller, of Centre County Children and Youth, as difference makers in the community.

The event also highlighted the work of the Stewards of Children program. A joint effort by the United Way, YSB, the YMCA and the Women's Resource Center, the program is designed to prevent child abuse by offering classes to train adults in how to correctly respond to potential child abuse.

“We believe that every child in our community should grow up happy, healthy and whole. So, I encourage every adult in the county to take this free child sexual abuse training program and be a voice for the voiceless,” said Jamie San Filippo, of the YMCA.

Centre County Judge Kathrine Oliver also addressed the crowd and spoke about how the conversation must continue in order to prevent abuse in the future. Oliver sited the statistic that every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. She said that over the past 25 years, crimes of sexual violence have fallen by 63 percent, but she said there is still more work to be done.

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said law enforcement was ready to listen to anyone who has been a victim of abuse or sexual assault, and provide a safe place to find justice.

The event's keynote speaker, Larry Conard, is survivor of sexual assault and an advocate. He said there are seven words that every survivor of sexual abuse needs to hear in a powerful speech: "I believe you" and "It's not your fault.”

"To know that you are believed and that others don’t blame you, that’s a solid foundation that makes all the rest of the survivor’s progress and recovery possible," said Conrad, of Carlisle. He said everyone knows someone who is a victim of sexual assault, whether they realize it or not. If 100,000 people are sitting in Beaver Stadium, statistics say that 20,000 of them are victims of sexual abuse. With these numbers so high, it is important for people to speak up when they see an issue or a problem, said Conrad.

Oliver said she hopes the community continues the conversation past April.

“Every 98 seconds — difficult conversation? Absolutely, but let’s have them today in observance of Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Let’s have them tomorrow and throughout the month of April. Then let’s continue to have them every day so we will see less clients as part of the statistics over the next 25 years.”

 

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