Utah is often associated with happiness and family unity, yet, there may be some problems which are often overlooked including sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To raise public awareness, on April 14, the Center for Women and Children in Crisis in Orem will host a community resource day. This event will educate the community in sexual assault prevention and involve them in establishing safe environments in their neighborhoods, work places and families.
Taylor Thomas, rape crisis team coordinator at the center, said rape and sexual assault have many misconceptions. She will be present at the community resource day to address many of these fallacies.
“Sexual assault can happen to anyone,” Thomas said.
Mina Uscharawadi, education coordinator at the center, said Utah’s instances of sexual assault and rape are higher than the national average. She also said people often misconceive sexual assault with poorly dressed women and dark alleys. But most of the time, the victim knows their assailant. She said no one ever thinks they will be a victim, especially in Utah.
“In my opinion, most people have a perception of Utah as being a family-oriented community with conservative standards,” Uscharawadi said. “Due to this perception, we fail to educate men, women and children about these important issues… rape and abuse are not respecters of sex, race or religion.”
A sexual assault victim, Ty (not her real name) said no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
“Rape is not a consequence for staying out late… Rape is not a consequence of drinking too much,” Ty said. “I will say it again, no one deserves to be abused.”
The center is not very well known, but victims such as Ty have learned about and benefited from it as they experience troubled times. Ty said in her “darkest days,” the center and the classes offered there helped her tremendously.
“As I began attending the class, I learned that it was OK for me to feel whatever I was feeling,” Ty said. “When I felt so alone, I knew there was someone there with answers and love.”
Often, victims are looked down upon or criticized. Thomas said in her opinion, victims, though hurting, are the most courageous people she knows.
“Victims are brave,” Thomas said, “but need love and support from those around them.”
Ty said victims shouldn’t be quiet about what happens. She said those who are silent about sexual abuse help no one.
“Abuse loves secrets,” Ty said. “The more we talk about it, the more empowered we become.”
The Community Resource Day will take place at the CWCIC office in Orem 1433 E. 840 North on April 14 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. In addition to prevention education, art will be on display and there will be an ongoing silent auction. All proceeds go to the center. For more information, visit cwcic.org
“Prevention starts with awareness,” Uscharawadi said. “This event is meant to do just that.”