YWCA Our Voice

A look back at Domestic Violence Awareness Month

When you work as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, it’s easy to get weighed down by their pain and burnt out fight for justice.

But when the staff of the YWCA Wise Options program actually can witness change occuring, when we know we’re affecting change, we celebrate.

During October — which we honored as Domestic Violence Awareness Month — we did a lot of celebrating.

Last month, an unprecedented number of schools, groups and organizations took a stand to end gender violence when they invited the YWCA’s Wise Options community educator, Kacie, to speak to preschoolers, youth and adults.

From one end of the county to the other, Kacie shared impactful information with teenagers in Jersey Shore Area High School, Williamsport Middle School and Muncy High School.

Because one-in-three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner (according to loveisrespect.org), we are excited and grateful to teach students the warning signs of a dangerous relationship and talk with them about what it means to be a supportive, respectful partner.

For those students who already are in an unhealthy relationship, Kacie’s presence gives them a resource to reach out to. Perhaps for the first time, they know that what’s happening to them is not OK.

The youngest audience Kacie met was at the Eastern Lycoming YMCA child care program where students learned the YWCA’s “Healthy Touch” program.

“Healthy Touch” is a class the YWCA has offered for years — teaching young children about personal boundaries like when it’s OK to get undressed, who can see your body and how to say “no.”

Countless statistics show that one-in-four young girls, and one-in-six little boys, will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. The goal of the Healthy Touch presentation is to reduce those numbers and protect as many children as possible.

Other groups Kacie spoke to include the Girl Scouts, youth in probation and foster care at the Joinder Board, United Methodist Women and Lycoming County Re-entry.

We spread the message of Wise Options hotline and services during Oktoberfest at The Cell Block, First Friday and during the Mummer’s Parade in South Williamsport when 2,000 fliers with our crisis hotline number were handed out.

All of these groups have taken an active role in protecting youth and the community. They understand that the risk of domestic violence and dangers of sexual assault are real and want to bring an end to these crimes as much as we do.

The YWCA provides free community education year-round. We can tailor presentations for any employer or situation and we always are glad to make new connections and share our services with new faces.

If you have questions or would like Wise Options to provide education to your group, call Kacie at 570-322-4637, ext. 112.

If you, or someone you know needs help to escape domestic violence or needs to talk about their sexual assault, call the  Wise Options hotline at 800-326-8483. All calls are free and confidential.

Thompson is the communications and development manager at the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St. Her column is published on the second Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault, Wise Options can help 24/7 with a confidential hotline at 800-326-8483.