OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — 2022 is the 21st anniversary of the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, originally established by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center with input from a variety of sexual violence coalitions across the nation. Heartland Family Services, a nearly 150-year-old organization that assists vulnerable children and families across east-central Nebraska and southwest Iowa, also recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and hopes to raise awareness for the prevention of sexual violence.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates one out of every five women in the United States has experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime, and almost one in five men experiences some form of sexual violence. The National Criminal Victimization report for 2020 compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said that just over one in five, or 22.9% of all rape/sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement between 2019 and 2020. The report classified sexual assault as any form of sexual assault that was not rape or attempted rape, which includes unwanted threats or acts of sexual contact with or without force
Undoubtedly, that means violence is occurring in Nebraska as well, and that's where Heartland Family Service aims to step in. The organization has a Domestic Violence/ Sexual Assault program that aims to "keep victims safe, stop the violence, and hold offenders accountable" with resources such a 24-hour crisis line, crisis counseling, support groups and even the Safe Haven emergency concealed shelter. The program is largely funded by the Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Cultural Endowment and partially grant-funded through United Way of the Midlands, as well as through state and federal grants specific to victims of crime.
Though Heartland Family Service's Safe Haven Golf Tournament isn't until Aug. 26 this year, the 2021 tournament raised more than $45,000 for the Domestic Violence/ Sexual Assault program. But the efforts are ongoing, especially through April's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, to educate communities and individuals on sexual violence prevention and to make services known to survivors.
“Those who come forward about their sexual assault are some of the bravest individuals I have met,” said Dawn Conley, Program Director for the Heartland Family Service Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program, in a press release.
This year's national theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is "Building Safe Online Spaces Together," geared toward creating communities that are respectful and supportive toward victims of harassment, assault and abuse that will in theory extend to offline spaces as well.
If you need immediate help, the 24-7 Crisis Hotline can be accessed by calling 800-523-3666. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is also a 24-7 hotline and can be accessed at 1-800-656-4673.