Victims of sexual abuse need support

As the national spotlight focuses in on sexual violence in Ohio, it’s important to take pause and support survivors who are triggered by the recent media attention. “While the Steubenville case is under active investigation and fortunately has been turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as of last fall, our hearts go out to the survivor and family, as well as survivors everywhere,” said Katie Hanna, statewide director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Ohio’s sexual assault coalition.

For survivors, family members and friends in Ohio, support is available and we believe you. What happened is not your fault and you are not alone. To find the rape crisis program nearest you, please go to www.oaesv.org/resources/, contact our resource line during business hours at 1-888-886-8388, or call the national RAINN hotline 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673.

And while we applaud the outrage, we encourage others to turn their outrage into action. While the Steubenville case goes through the criminal justice system, with a trial set for February, we call on all Ohioans and our national partners to take action and call their Congress person about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In Ohio, we call upon the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner and other members of Congress to address these systemic acts of sexual violence that happen in every community each day.

With one in five women and one in 71 men having survived a rape in their lifetime, survivors need a reauthorized VAWA now. VAWA was not passed in the 112th Congress, and since Ohio has no dedicated state funding for addressing sexual violence and more than half of Ohio’s counties are without services, Ohio’s rape crisis programs and survivors need VAWA. This vital legislation provides survivors with rape crisis advocates 24/7 and communities with prevention programs to engage men and boys in sexual and intimate partner violence prevention.

“The vast majority of boys and men would never sexually assault anyone, nor do they find it funny when other men and boys use degrading language or joke about sexual assault. As we continue to engage men and boys in this issue, they will begin to notice how many allies they have in their homes, schools, universities, places of work, and everywhere,” said Alex Leslie, director of prevention programs at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center in Ohio.

Help us to ensure that survivors have support systems and prevention programs in place, so that we can end sexual violence, starting with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

Katie Hanna is statewide director of Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV). She can be reached at khanna@oaesv.org or (216) 658-1381.