April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year organizations across the country are focusing on the theme of “Engaging New Voices.” This is work the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault does year round. The coalition links organizations in every Wyoming county.
For example, the Community Safety Network, has for the last 35 years offered services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. They operate a confidential helpline and a shelter, and they work with survivors to create safety plans.
Executive Director Sharel Love said another way they support survivors is by broadening the conversation about sexual assault. She said they are, “Working really hard to lower the stigma around it and make it discussable. So we do a lot of prevention and education work.”
The focus of those efforts is with schools and employers, but Love said they will collaborate with anyone who will listen because anyone can have an impact.
“Those are all potential jurors. They are all potential voters," said Love. "This is important, and while they are difficult subjects and they are sensitive and people have different ideas about right or wrong ways in relationships to act, it often goes un-discussed.”
And that silence contributes to the underreporting of sexual violence, said Love. She said the long-term goal is to create a culture where people feel more confident confronting sexual violence. That could mean calling out a friend for abusive behavior or encouraging elected prosecutors to take on tough cases.
The Community Safety Network is hosting a 32-hour training for advocates working in rural areas in Jackson on April 24th - 28th. For more information go to csnjh.org.