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YWCA Wise Options assists survivors of sexual assault

Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Sexual violence is a widespread problem. It happens in every community and affects people of all genders and ages. Sexual violence is defined as any sexual activity where consent is not freely given, it impacts nearly one in six women.

The YWCA Wise Options program focuses on aiding victims in the immediate aftermath of such violence and continuing to support them as they rebuild their lives.

Wise Options works closely with UPMC Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) to care for patients who have been a victim of sexual assault. The nurse examiners recognize the complexity of each assault, collecting evidence that may be crucial if the survivor wishes to press charges.

To provide extended support, the YWCA prepared nearly 125 self-care boxes to be distributed during hospital visits filled with a variety of items including resource materials, self-care items, and handwritten words of encouragement.

Meaningful response to sexual violence is not possible in isolation; Lycoming County is fortunate to have a robust community full of dedicated individuals from different agencies working to support survivors. Many of these agencies have come together with the YWCA to recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Community stakeholders play an integral role in the referral and coordination of services offered through the YWCA’s Wise Options program.

The YWCA’s Wise Options services are available to all individuals of Lycoming County. While traveling throughout the county, you may have noticed the YWCA’s billboard or yard signs promoting our community event to highlight support for survivors.

Today, April 24, the YWCA will be hosting that event in Williamsport’s Ways Garden. Kicking off at 10 a.m., there will be community resources, age-appropriate activities, guest speakers to share powerful messages about sexual assault, and an award of “Champion of Victims’ Rights,” to Lycoming County District Attorney’s Detective William J. Weber.

To finalize Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we would love to see the entire community wearing denim on April 28. Known as Denim Day, it represents the start of a movement to visually protest misconceptions surrounding sexual assault.

In the 1990s, after a young woman was sexually assaulted, the Italian Court ruled that she must have given her consent for sexual activity due to the tightness of her jeans. The perpetrator was released, leaving women in the Italian Parliament enraged. The very next day, they wore jeans in protest to show their support of the victim and argue the court’s decision, to which they won.

We invite you to join us in wearing denim to show your support for all survivors of sexual violence on Wednesday, April 28th. Share your photos on social media using #ywcaDenimDay2021. The YWCA will be holding a photo opportunity in front of our building at 3:00 PM that day. We hope to see you there!

If you or someone you know have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other violent crimes, call our 24/7 free and confidential hotline at 1-800-326-8483.

— Staff members of the YWCA of NorthCentral PA contributed the above column.

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