Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives, and 1 in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. The majority of sexual assaults, an estimated 63%, are never reported to the police. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and while we know that one month isn’t enough to solve the widespread issue of sexual violence, it is a time to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on trauma informed ways to react to sexual assault as well as prevention measures that can be taken.

This April, the Coordinated Community Response (CCR) Team in Washburn County is raising awareness by participating in the Start By Believing Campaign. The Washburn County CCR Team consists of key players in the community, such as Law Enforcement, District Attorney’s Office Personnel, local hospitals, Probation and Parole, and other community organizations to develop strategies and procedures aimed at strengthening our community’s and systems’ response to domestic and sexual violence. The Start by Believing Campaign focuses on changing how society responds to disclosures of sexual assault. Most victims of sexual assault never report the crime to law enforcement, often because of the responses they receive from friends and family members. The Start by Believing campaign is designed to change this response. Knowing how to respond is critical, because a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face no consequences for their crimes. Start by Believing stops this cycle of silence by improving our personal and professional reactions. The campaign was created by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving criminal justice responses to sexual assault. This campaign kick starts on Wednesday, April 3rd, which is Start By Believing Day. On this day, we gather to end the silence and change the way we respond to sexual assault. We Start By Believing.

Another way the Washburn County CCR is promoting Sexual Assault Awareness Month and raising awareness is by launching Project Backpack. Project backpack is an initiative providing survivors of sexual assault with backpacks filled with resources during a sexual assault forensic exam. A forensic exam (sometimes called a SANE exam) can be conducted up to 120 hours (5 days) after an assault. The exam is performed by a Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner who has been specially trained to collect any evidence that can be used during prosecution. Many times, a person’s clothing is collected as evidence and this initiative would provide survivors with something to go home with. Please help us by donating any of the items below during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

  • T-shirts (sizes M- XL, new with tags)
  • Sports Bras (various sizes, new with tags)
  • Sweat Pants (sizes M-XL, new with tags)
  • Sweatshirts (sizes M-XL, new with tags)
  • Cleansing Towelettes
  • Hair ties
  • Hygiene kits Water
  • Bottles
  • Backpacks
  • Packable blankets
  • Fidget toys

Drop off locations include Spooner Police Department, Lakeland Family Resource Center, Washburn County Health and Human Services, Washburn County Sheriff's Office, Northwood School District, Birchwood School District, and Embrace.

Lastly, we are supporting survivors in the month of April with a new outreach tool. This past fall, Embrace was contacted by the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), who was awarded a new grant through the Office of Victims of Crime. RAINN asked if Embrace would be interested in participating in the grant project that allows online group chat technology to be used across Embrace's rural service area. Embrace accepted the offer to launch the Safe HelpRoom tool in April of 2019! Using the provided support group technology, Embrace staff will be able to facilitate completely anonymous online support groups. A general support group, known as Supportive Community, will be offered for survivors who may not feel ready to discuss their experiences in-person. In addition, an evidence-based support group specific to survivors working to achieve safety from both trauma and addiction, known as Seeking Safety, will be offered. The group is facilitated and moderated by trained advocates and is safe for everyone. Seeking Safety will be offered Tuesdays at 2:00PM, April 9th - June 18th and Supportive Community will be offered Thursdays at 10:00AM, April 11th - June 20th.

Together, we can create a community that helps survivors heal and thrive. For more information about the Start by Believing Campaign, or to take the pledge, please visit https://www.startbybelieving.org/

To learn more about Embrace and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, please visit www.embracewi.org or contact us 24/7 at 800.924.0556 or text 715.532.6976. You are not alone.

Pictured left to right: Jason Bartholomew (Washburn County Sheriff's Department), Erik Gulbrandsen (Minong Police Department), Clint Miller (Spooner Health), Cassidy Watson (Washburn County Public Health), Sue Selzler (Washburn County Dept. of Health and Human Services), Jerry Christman (Spooner Police Department), Kortney Strunk (Lakeland Family Resource Center), Kim Gunderson (Washburn County Probation and Parole), Brittny Olson (Embrace), Jess Christianson (Embrace)


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