Local organization assists victims of sexual assault

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month - and Healing Hearts & Families and Broken Bow Mayor Cecil Burt are collaborating to encourage public awareness and understanding about the extent of sexual assault along with the services available in our community to assist those who have been raped or assaulted. According to the "Rape in Nebraska" Report completed in 2003, more than 1 in every 8 adult women, or more than 84,000 adult women in Nebraska, has been a victim of forcible rape sometime in her lifetime. That statistic is below the national average because Nebraska is in the region of the United States that has a lower Lifetime Prevalence of Rape. These numbers are conservative because it does not include women who have never been forcibly raped but who have experienced attempted rapes, alcohol or drug facilitated rapes, incapacitation rapes, or statutory rapes (i.e., rapes in which no force or threat of force was used but the perpetrator had sex with an underage child or young adolescent). Nor does this estimate include any types of rape that have been experienced by female residents of Nebraska who are currently under the age of 18. Nor does the estimate include male rape victims of any age. This estimate also does not address possible changes in rape prevalence or in disclosures ofrape cases to interviewers that may have occurred over time. Healing Hearts and Families offers public educational programs that cover the services they provide, or program specific information according to your needs.What is SexualAssault? Sexual assault is forced, manipulated or coerced sexual contact. lt includes rape, child sexual abuse, same-sex assault, acquaintance rape, harassment and marital rape. The perpetrator uses sex to inflict physical and emotional violence and humiliation on the victim, or to exert power and control over the victim. Men almost always perpetrate sexual assaults - even when the victims are other men or boys.Prevalence People of every age, race, religion and physical appearance are raped. National statistics indicate that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime. The majority of sexual assault victims experience their first assault before their 18th birthday. Some people experience on-going sexual abuse during their childhood, a dating relationship or marriage.Other people experience multiple assaults at the hands of various assailants throughout their lives.Effects Many victims fear they will be killed or permanently disfigured during a sexual assault, even if such acts are not threatened. Perpetrators will use whatever level of violence necessary to achieve their goal. Rape victims may feel a wide variety of emotions after the physical assault has ended. These include fear, guilt, disbelief, numbness, anger, grief, depression, and a loss of control over their lives. These feeling can last for years after the assault and can result in stress related illnesses, addictions to drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, drastic lifestyle changes, and even suicide. Recovery from a sexual assault can be a slow and painful process for both the victim, and those who are close to him/her.Reporting Sexual assault is the least reported of all violent crimes. According to a 2008 study, most sexual assaults are never reported to the police The same study also found that stranger rapes are more likely to be reported than rapes by non-strangers.Many people tell no one about their assaults and try to cope with it alone. Victims are often hesitant to report their assaults for a number of reasons. Many fear that they won't be believed or that they will be blamed for the assault, particularly if the perpetrator is someone the victim knows. Other victims feel that the experience is too personal to share with strangers, or fear that their anonymity will not be protected. This is of particular concern in rural communities.Help is Available Healing Hearts & Families serves Blaine, Custer, Garfield, Greeley, Loup, Sherman, Valley and Wheeler counties, and assists survivors and families of domestic violence and sexual assault. The office is located at 724 South D Street in Broken Bow. Services they offer include a 24-hour crisis line, safe shelters, protection/harassment orders, peer support groups, transportation, financial assistance, crisis support, professional referrals and education/prevention programs. All services are confidential and provided without charge. Support groups available include adult domestic violence, children domestic violence, teen rape survivors, and adult rape survivors. lf you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, or if you would like more information, contact Healing Hearts & Families at 308-872-2420, 308-872-5988 or the 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-942-4040. “We’re here to help you.”