by: Eleana Butler
The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent it. By working together and pooling our resources during the month of April, we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health, human rights, and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts. The theme chosen this year for our community is “Break the Silence on Sexual Violence!”
Sexual assault is the least reported crime to law enforcement for many reasons, mainly because victims are afraid they won’t be believed or that they will be blamed for the assault. Silence keeps a community in the dark about the amount of sexual assault and violence that occurs. The numbers are shocking: every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted – this is over 200,000 victims per year. 44% of victims are under the age of 18, and 80% are under the age of 30. Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
Join in and help Break the Silence on Sexual Violence!
A list of this month’s events is located on the Community Events page.
Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico
24-Hour Rape Crisis Hotline: (505) 326-4700 or 866-908-4700Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
by: Georgette Allen
What exactly does an advocate do? This is a question that I have been asked on numerous occasions. My short answer is usually, “We help victims navigate through the criminal justice system.” Of course my answer is specific to my job as a systems-based advocate. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an advocate as, “One that supports or promotes the interest of another.” But neither of these answers provides an in-depth explanation of the duties performed by an advocate on a day-to-day basis.
To give a better understanding of an advocate’s role, let’s start with the difference between a systems-based advocate and a community based advocate. A community-based advocate is one that is employed by an independent, usually non-profit, organization. Examples of non-profit agencies that employ advocates in our local community are Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico and the FamilyCrisis Center.
In contrast, systems-based advocates are employed by juvenile or criminal justice agencies including: law enforcement, district attorneys, probation and parole, corrections, military, and attorney generals. In our community, the Farmington Police Department, Bloomfield Police Department, FBI, and the District Attorney’s Office employ systems-based advocates. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is currently in the process of implementing a volunteer systems-based advocate program.
The overall goal of both types of advocates is to provide support to the victim so that he or she can get through their state of crisis and begin the healing process. However, the parameters in which they perform their duties differ greatly. Here are a few of the differences between the two:
- Community-based advocates are able to work with victims whether they report the crime to law enforcement or not. Systems-based advocates generally work with victims who have an open criminal case.
- Community-based advocates typically provide confidential services, meaning communication between the advocate and the victim are considered “privileged.” Levels of privilege may vary from state to state. Communication between a victim and a systems-based advocate are not considered “privileged” under law and therefore, are not afforded confidentiality rights.
- Many systems-based advocates work with victims of all crimes. Community-based advocates are specially trained in working with victims of a particular group: domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, etc.
Below is a detailed description of services provided by systems-based advocates and community-based advocates from two agencies in San JuanCounty:
The Farmington Police Department (FPD) employs two full-time victim advocates who provide the following services for victims of violent crimes, with a majority being domestic violence and sexual assault:
- Act as liaisons between victims of violent crimes and the criminal justice system (Communication)
- Inform victims of their rights and advocate for those rights
- Explain the criminal justice process
- Keeping victims up-to-date on case progress
- Inform victims of court dates
- Assist with victim statements at sentencing
- Crisis intervention
- Assisting victims with filing orders of protection
- Safety Planning
- Assisting with the Crime Victim Reparation Commission (CVRC) application process
- Provide support to victims during court proceedings
- Transport victims to court proceedings, shelters, or other related appointments
- Assist victims with accessing additional resources
- Answering questions about the criminal justice process for victims who are trying to decide whether or not to report
Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico (SAS) employs a full-time victim advocate and a crisis services coordinator who recruits and trains volunteer advocates. Advocates are called-out upon request of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) to provide the following services for victims of sexual assault:
- Support during forensic exams conducted by a SANE
- Assistance in filing CVRC applications
- Referrals to counseling and/or other resources
- Support during court proceedings
In addition to providing direct services to victims, advocates from both agencies are actively involved in the community to help facilitate change and create an environment conducive to supporting victims and holding offenders accountable. As members of the San Juan County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force, FPD and SAS advocates:
- Conduct community awareness campaigns and events
- Provide education and training opportunities to local law enforcement, professionals, students, and the greater public
- Engage with local legislators to bring attention to the issues
Advocates play an important role in the community for those affected by these devastating crimes. They are the voice of the voiceless, the ones fighting for the victims’ rights, and the ones who will be there to lend a listening ear.
Are you an advocate from another part of the country or around the world? I invite you to share the work you are doing in your community. Email us at email@example.com and I will post your story on our blog.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Advocates have fought and come a long way for victim’s rights and protection against exploitation of their lives during criminal proceedings. This victim decided enough was enough when she was subpoenaed to provide personal information that she felt was an invasion of her privacy. After hearing this survivor’s story, it’s obvious that we still have a lot of work to do.
Dr. Thomas Bray was sentenced to 25 years in prison for brutally raping Jennifer Bennett of Bend, Oregon. The conviction came after an eight-day trial and Bray’s defense attorney attempting to obtain Bennett’s search engine records to prove she Googled the definition of rape before she made a report.
Over a five hour period, Dr. Bray beat, raped, and strangled Bennett to the point she lost consciousness. She suffered from substantial, visible injuries, including petechiae (internal bleeding that can be caused by strangulation). When Bennett was finally released and able to return home, she decided to report the assault, but did not realize what she was about to face. Bray’s attorney, Stephen Houze, subpoenaed Bennett’s computer, search engine records, and journals: she refused to provide them. Judge Stephen Tiktin did not enforce the subpoena when Bennet showed up for court, refusing to provide such information. However, both Tiktin and Judge A. Michael ordered the District Attorney’s Office to obtain Bennett’s search history from Google. Prosecutors also refused to provide such documentation. The judge’s orders drew scrutiny from victim advocates who noted that this practice was rare nationwide and to order such, would discourage other victims from reporting. The order was never enforced and Bennett’s search engine history was never provided to the defense.
Last Friday, in addition to sentencing Bray to 25 years in prison, Judge Tiktin also ordered him to a pay a $112,000 fine, $50,000 of which will go to Bennett. While the judge’s decision not to uphold the subpoenas, and the final verdict, were positive outcomes, victim advocates and legal experts warn that this type of defense strategy may become more popular and that more work needs to be done to develop laws regarding information privacy and victim rights.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Each year the task force as well as individual member agencies, host an array of events in light of Sexual Assault Awareness month. Much brainstorming went on behind the scenes to make April 2012 an educational opportunity as well as bring in funds for the task force and associated agencies.
Prevalence of the Problem
On average, there are 207,754 victims of rape and sexual assault throughout the United States each year. Out of every 100 rapes, only 46 are reported to the police. In 2006, San Juan County’s five law enforcement agencies (Aztec, Bloomfield, Farmington, Sheriff’s Office and State Police) had 76 CSP (criminal sexual penetration) incidents reported. That number rose to 326 in 2010 with 31% of the victims being under 12 years of age.
Monetary Costs & Long-Term Effects
The monetary costs of adult rapes total an estimate of $127 billon per year. Much of these costs are directly related to medical and mental health services making sexual assault a community health issue. Rape crisis centers help alleviate such societal costs by providing much needed services to survivors of this devastating crime.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is one of the main funding sources of rape crisis centers, but this alone is not enough. Advocacy groups, such as our local task force, work hard throughout the year to raise additional funds to provide survivors with support services that are crucial in helping to reduce long-term effects caused by sexual assault related trauma. Such effects can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, relationship problems, loss of work, eating disorders, substance abuse, and insomnia. This list of effects is not all-inclusive but puts into perspective the impact that sexual assault can have on an individual.
Making A Change
Community awareness and education is imperative to facilitate change surrounding misbeliefs that are all too common in society. End Violence Against Women International’s (EVAWI) Start by Believing campaign addresses the importance of a supportive response to the victim when he or she discloses a sexual assault. All too often, victims of sexual assault are not believed by the individual whom they disclose to. Having a negative response towards the victim can be the determining factor as to whether or not he or she will seek further assistance.
So What Did the Task Force Do This Year?
Thanks to the generous donations from community businesses and members, the task force and associated agencies were able to host a variety of awareness campaigns and fundraising events. Such events help bring attention to this community health issue that can not be overlooked. In addition, funds raised help to support local rape crisis and advocacy groups so that sexual assault survivors here in San Juan County may continue to receive the services they need.
Teal Ribbon Campaign:
Local law enforcement officers placed teal ribbons, donated by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, on their vehicles to show support for Sexual Assault Awareness month.
This year’s play, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, written by Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, took place at Piedra Vista High School. The annual play is put on in an effort to bring attention to and stop violence against women & girls. Proceeds for this event benefited Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico and New Beginnings transitional shelter.
Take Back the Night:
This year’s march started at Safeway West and ended at the Farmington Civic Center. Approximately 75 participants gathered at the center, watched a short clip about the Start By Believing Campaign, shared personal stories about sexual assault, and ended the event with a candlelight vigil.
Sassy Tortoise & Hare Run:
This was the second annual 10k run, 5k run/walk, and 1 mile kids run/walk hosted by Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico (SAS). The run took place at the Lions Wilderness Park. All proceeds benefited SAS, which provides SANE exams (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) and advocacy services to sexual assault survivors.
The Eat Up to Speak Up fundraiser hosted by Chili’s was a new event for the task force. Patrons provided a pre-made flyer with their ticket and 10% of the total was donated to the task force.
Thanks to Majestic Media, the task force was able to launch EVAWI’s Start by Believing campaign here in our community. Captions from the campaign, in addition to April’s events, were displayed on Majestic’s digital billboards, in the Tri-City Tribune, and on the Tri-City nightly news.
The task force would like to thank all the donors that made this year’s events possible:
Farmington Police Department
Aztec Police Department
Bloomfield Police Department
City of Farmington
Little Caesar’s Pizza
Thank you to the Daily Times for providing coverage for Take Back the Night.
SASSY Run Sponsors:
City of Bloomfield
Northwest NM Women’s Health Specialists
Simpson Law Office
RC Mobile Home Transport
Cascade Bottled Water
Desert Hills Dental Care
San Juan College
State Farm-Trudy Goldsmith
City of Farmington
Farmington Police Department
Bob and Janet Burns
Farmington Family Practice
San Juan Endoscopy
Trust Law Associates
Great Harvest Bread Company
Serenity Touchless Massage
Jim & Dalene Reese
Thank you to Dairy Queen in Kirtland for donating coupons for our kids run/walk participants.
U.S. Department of Justice. National Crime Victimization Survey. 2006-2010.
New Mexico Interpersonal Violence Data Central Repository. Sex Crimes In New Mexico IX: An Analysis of 2010 Data. 2011.
National Institute of Justice. Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look. 1996
The National Alliance To End Sexual Violence.
The Costs and Consequences of Sexual Violence and Cost-Effective Solutions. 2011
Have you seen the teal ribbons on local law enforcement vehicles and wondered, “What are they for?” Teal is the official color of sexual assault awareness and to show their support, Farmington, Aztec, and Bloomfield Police Departments, along with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department are placing teal ribbons on the antennas of their vehicles throughout the month of April.
After the education committee requested the agencies to participate in the teal ribbon campaign, the sheriff’s department constructed and donated the ribbons for each agency. This is just one of the many events that have taken place during the month of April to help raise awareness about sexual assault in our community.
The task force would like to thank the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department for donating all the teal ribbons and thank all the law enforcement agencies for participating in the teal ribbon campaign!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Join us for our annual Take Back the Night march and candlelight vigil on April 23rd from 7:00-9:00 pm. Details are on the flyer below. Please fell free to download and print a copy for yourself and others.
Would you like more information on the history of Take Back the Night Events? Visit http://www.takebackthenight.org/history.html to read about the origin and the various communities around the world that participate in Take Back the Night.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and during this time, Task Force agency members will be hosting various events to help shed light on this serious and often silent issue. In addition, the Task Force will launch EVAWI’s (End Violence Against Women International) Start By Believing Campaign here in our community. You will see the beginnings of the campaign throughout Farmington on Majestic Media’s digital billboards, in the Tri-City Tribune and on the Tri-City nightly news cast during the month of April. We would like to thank Majestic Media for helping us launch the campaign and donating advertisement for all of the Task Force’s and affiliated agencies’ events!
Remember to visit our blog frequently to keep up-to-date on all of April’s events. You may also sign up to follow our blog by clicking the “Follow” button in the sidebar and entering your email address.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )