Spotlight on sexual violence

Every 73 seconds, another American experiences sexual assault

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For the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is more than just a note on the April calendar.

It’s a chance to provide community education and support for survivors, renewing a commitment to ending sexual violence. Throughout the month, the center has used their social media platforms, like Facebook, to provide Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) statistics, debunk myths, and offer community resources.

Stephanie Joyal, a sexual assault counselor for EBCC, said the goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to make the community aware of the services available to sexual assault survivors and resources for family and friends.

“Do we necessarily have every resource? No,” Joyal said in an interview on Monday. “But we want folks to know were here to guide them and provide resources. If we don’t have the answers, we can certainly point them in the right direction.”

To amplify the importance of SAAM, Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi signed a proclamation last Friday reinforcing the collaboration between the EBCC and the City of Warwick to educate and support the community.

“We see every day that sexual assault is not confined to any group or groups of people, but crosses all economic, racial, gender, educational, religious, and societal barriers. Crimes of sexual assault violate an individuals privacy, dignity, security and humanity,” wrote Rachel Caliri, coordinator of social media and grant development at EBCC, in an email. “Victims should have help to find the compassion, comfort, and healing they need, and abusers should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Along with Mayor Frank Picozzi, Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins and Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena also issued proclamations, bringing community awareness to SAAM and the services provided by the EBCC.

“We want to make the community aware, and maybe it’ll intrigue people to learn a little more about us or reach out to us to take part in our services or trainings,” Caliri said in an interview on Monday. “We want to emphasize that we offer services that are completely free, including our hotline. There are so many victims out there we haven’t reached or might have missed.”

RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, reports that on average, there are 433,648 victims aged 12 and older of rape and sexual violence each year in the United States. Every 73 seconds, another American experiences sexual assault. One out of six American women and one in 10 American men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

According to other statistics on the EBCC Facebook page, only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police, meaning three out of four go unreported.

“We encourage sexual assault victims and their families to seek assistance from appropriate victims’ services organizations such as the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center where they can receive free counseling, support, and wrap around services,” Caliri wrote in an email. “We hope to increase public awareness of sexual assault and its prevalence, and to service victims while eliminating it through prevention and education.”

On Wednesday, the EBC provided a free virtual training, Sexual Assault 101, that gave the community a chance to learn about the definitions, myths, facts, and dynamics that tend to occur in sexual assault situations, plus a brief overview of RI laws and the justice system, Joyal said.

The next free virtual training is on Wednesday, April 28, at 6 p.m., covering the topic of youth internet safety. According to Joyal, this training is targeted towards parents and adults that work with children. Joyal wants to equip them with tools to open up discussions with kids about whats safe to post, what isnt safe to post, safe websites, and tips for avoiding exploitation of youth online.

The training will cover youth internet use, risks of exploitation, grooming, bribes, black mail, and more. To register for the training, visit ebccenter.org. Community organizations and businesses can also register for workshops and workforce development programs with the EBC.

“These trainings are opportunities to inform the public, to dispel some myths and misconceptions around sexual assault in our society, and to educate the community about the reality of the impacts of sexual assault,” Joyal said in an interview. “We want to let the community know that were here to support sexual assault survivors and their families.”

Serving the community through outreach and education is what the center knows well, but over the last year, the pandemic has greatly impacted how the EBC interacts with the community.

Caliri explained that even though virtual is new for the EBC, they’re embracing the change.

This year, the centers annual Run for the Roses Kentucky Derby fundraiser won’t be held at the Warwick Country Club. Instead, the center is taking its annual fundraiser virtual, where guests are still encouraged to don their derby finery.

“We would love to have a little party, but things aren’t quite under wraps like we thought they would be,” Caliri said. “This is our first virtual fundraiser, but the annual derby fundraiser has been a part of EBC since way before I started working here. People look forward to this and we didn’t want to miss another year.”

This year, the event includes a raffle, online auction, and livestream of the Kentucky Derby race on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. on the EBCC Facebook page. Raffle tickets can be purchased and entered at the center starting April 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The live online auction starts April 27 at 11 a.m. Raffle and auction prizes include gift certificates, Red Sox tickets, golf packages, a gateway to Siesta Key and more. To view the prizes, visit ebccenter.org/derby.

“We’re hoping the event is a success,” Caliri said. “The lack of events over the past year has really taken a toll on us and other organizations. We’d like to make an impact this year.”

For more information about resources or services provided by the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, call (401) 738-9700 or email info@ebccenter.org. The EBCC hotline is (401) 738-1700, and the statewide hotline, which can be accessed 24/7, is 1-800-494-8100.

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