Public awareness of sexual assault essential for everyone

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 2004

In Virginia one in four women and one in 10 men have been victims of sexual assault. In addition, 29 percent of all homicides in Virginia in 2002 were related to family or intimate partner violence.

These statistics come from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, which is trying to raise public awareness of the issue during October, which is Sexual and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Other terrifying statistics:

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nThe vast majority of sexual assault victims in Virginia (87 percent of females and 96 percent of males) were children or adolescents at the time of the assault.

nMore than half of the children who received help from a Virginia domestic violence program in 2002 had witnessed an act of violence.

Too often, domestic violence victims feel like they are on their own. It doesn’t have to be that way. Locally, there are many programs and services directed specifically to help domestic violence and abuse victims.

Two of those are the Genieve Shelter and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office began a domestic violence prosecution program in 1998 and since then has prosecuted more than 2,000 cases – that’s right here in Suffolk, not some far off land. That’s an outstanding record of achievement. The office has a brochure available specifically directed to abuse victims and tells them how to get help. You can obtain one of these by calling 923-2221.

You can also visit their Web site at and click on any of the office’s programs and services.

Also in Suffolk, the Genieve Shelter caters to women and their children who are victims of abuse. It can be contacted at 925-4361. On Oct. 21, the Genieve Shelter is sponsoring a candlelight vigil in honor of domestic violence victims. It will be held from 6-7 p.m. in the courtyard of the Mills Godwin Courts Complex on N. Main Street. A reception will follow at the Shooting Star Gallery.

The goal of these programs and activities is to raise

awareness of the prevalence and cost of sexual and domestic violence, the need for prevention and availability of services for survivors and victims.

October is time to obtain the pamphlet, go to the Web site and learn all you can so you can recognize the signs and help someone – perhaps someone close to you – who is suffering. Let them know they are not alone.