Spreading the Word During Sexual Assault Awareness Month - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/05/06

Spreading the Word During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Many victims of sexual assault come forward, so the chances of authorities catching their attackers increase. But many more do not, and that is still a major concern to those who can help victims.

This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and being aware of what programs are out there can make the difference.

To officially kick off this campaign, members of the Rape Crisis Center, the district attorney's office, police and a sexual assault nurse examiner gathered in front of the police station to get their message out.

"We want victims to know not to be afraid to report when a sexual assault crime happens to them," said Mary McAlister, director of the Rape Crisis Center.

A startling fact shows that one out of every three women will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime; 85 percent of the victims know their attackers, and most assaults happen in the victim's home

"Sexual assault is a problem everywhere," noted nurse Sharon Anderson.

But victims in Savannah may have a better chance of putting their attackers behind bars. There are specially trained nurses like Anderson called SANEs, or sexual assault nurse examiners, who are helping the DA's office prosecute attackers

"Our evidence is more consistent," explained Anderson. "We're trained to collect evidence, so they're probably getting better evidence than an emergency room where they don't collect the same type of evidence."

Rape can happen at any place, at any time, but if it does happen to you, there are things you can do to help doctors and nurses collect the evidence they need.

"You don't want to eat, you don't want to take a shower, you don't want to wash," said Anderson. "If possible, you don't want to go to the bathroom. You don't want to change your clothes, and you want to call us as soon as possible."

Anderson says more than half of all sexual assault victims never come forward. By educating the public, she and others hope those numbers will change.

Reported by: Christy Hutchings, chutchings@wtoc.com

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