TAYLOR COUNTY—Often times, women and men become the victims of sexual assault, harassment or abuse and don’t know where to turn for help. To ensure that those individuals affected by the issue can obtain assistance, resources for support and information, many organizations come together to celebrate April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
With roots in the social change and equality movements of the 1940s and 1950s, and growing activism in the 1970s, sexual assault awareness has been an ongoing initiative across the United States.
In fact, the first rape crisis center was founded in San Francisco in 1971, and in 1993, activists saw the passage of crucial legislation with the Violence Against Women’s Act.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, even before SAAM was first nationally observed in 2001, advocates had been holding events, marches and observances related to sexual violence during the month of April, sometimes during a week-long “Sexual Assault Awareness Week.”
To help raise consciousness about the issue, coalitions and community organizations come together during the month of April. In campaigns that include special events and informational drives, they work to promoted sexual assault awareness.
Locally, the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center (RDVIC) takes on the task of aiding those who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused.
Serving residents in Taylor, Preston and Monongalia Counties, the organization has sought to be a helping hand since 1973.
Through their goal of helping survivors becoming empowered, continue to survive and thrive, the RDVIC engages community members in helping to stop rape, sexual violence and gendered violence.
As a way to do so, they host their annual Walking With Survivors, a yearly appeal and fundraiser. This year, the event is slated to take place on Saturday, April 9, at the Farmers’ Market Pavilion, located on Spruce Street, in Morgantown.
The walk is slated to begin at 3:30 p.m., and participants will walk through downtown Morgantown as a show of support for sexual assault survivors and to raise awareness of their issues.
“In prior years, we walked under the campaign of ‘Walk A Mile in Her Shoes,’ but last year, we decided to walk under a new name because, while we recognize that women are disproportionately affected, we wanted to be very clear that sexual violence knows no boundaries,” said Alexia Jennings, RDVIC Executive Director. “It is not restricted by gender, sexual orientation, race, age or economic status.”
Participants will walk a mile, and then be treated to a fun afternoon of food, music, awards, raffles and silent auction items, with the festivities concluding at 6:00 p.m.
“This year, we will be walking in honor of the former Vice President of RDVIC, Marion ‘Mun’ Kosta, who was an active and passionate supporter of our annual walk to support survivors,” Jennings noted.
RDVIC serves as a crucial outlet for those affect by sexual violence, and in the past year alone has provided nearly $28,000 in financial assistance to victims. In addition, the organization aided victims with 2,189 sheltered nights and over 1,711 hours of counseling, crisis intervention and advocacy services.
To do so, RDVIC requires financial and in-kind support from community members, organizations and businesses. One way that funding is obtained is through sponsorships at their annual walk.
Offered in four varying levels including Platinum at $2,500, Gold at $1,000, Silver at $500 and Bronze at 250, supporters will have plenty of options for sponsorships.
Donor’s names and company information will be displayed on a banner during the event, and sponsors will be invited to walk and attend the celebration under the pavilion.
Those who are unable to sponsor may register to take part in Walking With Survivors for just $20 a person, and students will receive a $10 discount. The registration fee will cover the cost of the walk, celebration and an official event t-shirt.
Registration may be completed on Eventbrite by visiting www.eventbrite.com and searching Walking With Survivors.
Those requesting more information may contact Carl by phone at 304-292-5100 or by emailing [email protected]