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Hope Shores Alliance recognizes April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Courtesy Photo Teal is the color of sexual assault awareness and prevention. Show your support for survivors this month by wearing teal or placing a teal ribbon or heart in your window.

ALPENA — Hope Shores Alliance is asking our community to share in honoring this April as the 20th anniversary of the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To commemorate, HSA is focusing on social media engagement as part of the national campaign, “Building Safe Online Spaces,” through an interactive social media campaign with the community along with a collaborative awareness event with Alpena Community College.

This year HSA and ACC are hosting a virtual Facebook Live Candlelight Vigil titled “Illuminate: Shining a Light on Sexual Assault Awareness Month” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28. Additionally, throughout the month, coffee and tea shops from across Hope Shores Alliance’s five-county service area (Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency and Presque Isle) have collaborated with HSA in an awareness passport project titled “Consent is Brew-tea-ful” where participants can purchase specialty drinks and earn rewards to exchange for a limited design drink tumbler.

“Hope Shores Alliance staff and volunteers are ramping up outreach and creating community connection and awareness during the pandemic, in an uplifting way, to bring focus to survivors,” HSA Executive Director Valerie Williams said. “Hope Shores remains committed to being accessible to all, even in a time when in-person connection is difficult. Remote service or in-person, whatever your preference, we’re here for it and we’re here 24/7.”

Sexual assault has had devastating impacts within our own communities and affects all people regardless of sexuality, gender, socio-economic status, race, or religion. More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence during their lifetime. Additionally, only 19% of rapes, completed or attempted, are reported annually. In fiscal year 2019/2020, HSA received 66 reports of sexual assault, 16 crisis response calls with our community Sexual Assault Response Team, and provided 664 hours of survivor support.

The trend reflected in these statistics demonstrates the impact that the pandemic has had on reporting sexual violence. Fear of going to the hospital, increased risk of intimate partner violence, lockdown measures, social isolation and difficulty accessing supportive services all can lead to additional barriers to reporting sexual assault. HSA has taken a proactive and strategic approach to support survivors during this unprecedented time, but the pandemic has led to lower reporting rates on the national, state and local levels.

Individuals, communities, and the private sector are already successfully combating the risk of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse through conversations, programs, policies and research-based tools that promote safety, respect and equality. Locally, HSA is continuing to grow relationships with local schools, colleges, hospitals, law enforcement and prosecution.

HSA’s new Sexual Assault Program Coordinator Paige Allia shared the importance of community focus and engagement in responding to sexual violence.

“We need each and every community member as part of cultivating awareness and prevention,” she said. “We have more work ahead of us to make it clear in our community that abusers are neither welcome or safe and survivors of sexual violence will be met with compassion and resources to support them on their healing pathway.”

Throughout April, Northeast Michigan communities will join with others across the country to honor the resiliency of survivors whose strength and tenacity is humbling. HSA will honor the victims who were lost to sexual violence and celebrate the continued progress survivors and advocates have made over the years and to unite Northeastern Michigan communities to end sexual violence.

“Safety of our communities is of utmost importance at Hope Shores Alliance, therefore we will be maintaining the recommended social distancing throughout April,” Services Director Jillian Ferguson said. “Although our plans for SAAM events may look different this year; our commitment to honoring survivors, providing education on sexual assault dynamics, and reaching out to our community to engage in meaningful conversation about the steps we can all take to support survivors and hold perpetrators accountable will continue even through this difficult time.”

Join HSA in honoring SAAM by participating in these awareness activities:

¯ Hang a teal ribbon or heart in your window to let your neighbors know that you believe, support and validate survivors of sexual assault.

¯ Visit participating area coffee and tea shops to purchase specialty beverages as part of the Consent is Brew-tea-ful Campaign and earn a limited edition tumbler.

¯ Participate in our interactive social media posts that started with the National Day of Action on Thursday, April 1. Hope Shores Alliance asks the community to wear teal, the color of sexual assault awareness and prevention. Photos of you participating can be shared on social media by tagging Hope Shores Alliance’s Facebook and Instagram or using the hashtags #hopeshoresalliance, #saam and #supportsurvivors.

¯ Denim Day — April 28 — Wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors and educate yourself and others about all forms of sexual violence.

¯ Watch the Facebook livestream of “Illuminate: Shining a Light on Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” on HSA’s Facebook page starting at 7 p.m. April 28.

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