Sexual abuse and assault is a difficult and sensitive topic to discuss. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why 70 percent of victims do not come forward. Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud (MSB) Criminal Justice Program Chair Laurie Rosas invited staff members from the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center (CMSAC) to educate students, staff and faculty about acquaintance rape during a recent lunch and learn.
CMSAC is a 24-hour crisis intervention agency providing direct services to those people affected by any form of sexual violence. Free and confidential services are available to people and organizations within Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Wright Counties of Central Minnesota.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Grant Manager Tamara Hennes-Vix and Victim’s Advocate Sarah Colford provided staggering statistics regarding sexual assault in the St. Cloud and surrounding area; one in six males are abused prior to the age of 18, while one out of three females experience sexual assault/abuse in their lifetimes.
According to the agency’s website, in 2013, CMSAC responded to 298 new cases of sexual assault, and provided services 2,675 times to victims of sexual assault through contact on the 24-hour crisis phone line, advocacy at hospitals, law enforcement agencies, court hearings, support counseling, support groups and case management.
Sarah provided to the audience a firsthand account of the trauma of sexual abuse. She was sexually abused at the age of five by a friend’s father, and again at the age of 11 by a neighbor while she was babysitting his children. Sarah was stalked by a sexual predator at the age of 18, and was sexually assaulted by a male friend at the age of 21.
One may marvel at Sarah’s resilience, but as she noted, she had to “hit bottom” before her road to recovery could begin. Binge drinking, sexual promiscuity and finally, prostitution, failed to alleviate Sarah’s shame and self-hate. She contacted CMSAC, but initially hesitated to accept their services; Sarah wanted to address her abuse in her own time and in her own way. Luckily, she later returned to CMSAC, and joined one of the women’s support groups. It was there that she discovered she was not alone; many other women also had “dirty little secrets.”
Sarah discovered that her overall healing process was accelerated by speaking with other abuse victims, and she eventually became an advocate at CMSAC. The agency’s advocates cover the 24- hour crisis line, attend court appearances with the victims, assist in the preparation of Orders for Protection and Restraining Orders, facilitate the support groups and provide moral support at the hospital during the evidence collection process.
When asked how to help a sexual assault victim, Sarah stated, “just be there for them … be non-judgmental … just listen.”
Tamara encouraged the audience to become involved with the St. Cloud Take Back the Night on September 25. She also advised that CMSAC will offer a 40 hour volunteer advocacy training, and it will commence the first Monday of October. If interested, please contact Rebecca (Take Back the Night) and Renae (advocacy training) at 320-251-4357.