Tahoe organizations recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Multiple events on tap
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — April is celebrated nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and organizations in the basin are preparing to recognize the month with events that center around raising awareness and supporting survivors.
Live Violence Free, which is an agency located in South Lake Tahoe that supports families and individuals experiencing violence, and provide multiple services including crisis support and advocacy counseling, safe housing, legal services, a parenting program, a school outreach program, and food and clothing assistance.
The group recently celebrated their 45th anniversary, and will be doing everything they can to raise awareness during SAAM, starting with working with the city of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County offices to recognize the month formally.
LVF Director of Development and Outreach Colin Croughan explained that advocating will begin on Wednesday, April 5, and will start with their Start By Believing campaign.
“We will have our police departments and officials sign out waivers that show our advocacy,” Croughan said.
The waivers will have survivors fill out the sheet recognizing they are victims, and those signed waivers will cover police vehicles to demonstrate the impact of how many people are really impacted by sexual assault and domestic violence in our local community.
“Statistics show it’s closer to one out of every three people in our South Tahoe communities could or are experiencing DV or SA, which is a pretty stark number,” said Croughan.
Other ways LVF will be spreading awareness is through contributing to the sexual health newsletter with Dr. Johnson and Alpine County. They will also be acknowledging Victim’s Awareness Week which starts April 16, and on April 26, they will be participating in Denim Day.
Denim Day started as a campaign against sexual assault apologists in the summer of 1998 in Italy, and has carried since it was first observed in 1999.
Croughan pointed out that it’s important to acknowledge this month, especially in a small mountain area, because of how predisposed the community is to these types of abuse and sexual assault.
“In a nutshell, out challenge at Live Violence Free is twofold in that we are one, combating the hyper-local factors that predispose our community to domestic violence and abuse,” said Croughan. “But also we are pioneering eduction on a national level around DV and SA due to just a general lack of knowledge, and just doing the work to debunk taboos, stigmas, and misconceptions that it couldn’t happen in a place like this, that it only happens in large cities, but the numbers show that actually very much not the case.”
LVF uses the campaign “One Conversation” which looks to connect with local individuals, and now, businesses in the area, to help train individuals and staff in LVF’s outreach program about how to recognize signs of abuse and how to tactfully communicate to members of the community if they need help and what they can do to find assistance.
“We’re calling it our Sanctuaries and Champions approach where these businesses will exist as safe spaces and sanctuaries for not only victims of abuse and sexual assault, but also all members of the community who feel they need a safe space, whether that’s LGBTQ-plus or otherwise,” said Croughan.
On the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Sierra Community House is also doing as much work as they can to spread awareness and offer support to community members in the Tahoe and Truckee area.
Last year alone, the SCH team provided 677 community members with sexual assault-related services, including advocacy, peer-counseling, safety planning, and through their support with their 24-hour help-hotline.
Crisis Advocacy Manager Andrea Chapman also coordinates the 24-help line, as well as trains people to answer the calls and provide the help needed.
Along with running supporting survivors through multiple programs in the agency, the center works incredibly close with outside agencies that can help survivors further, including working with local law enforcement, community hospitals, and housing advocates.
“The biggest thing in our mountain town that is actually a really good thing that we do is community collaboration,” said Chapman. “We have ongoing meetings with law enforcement about how to respond and collaboratively respond. Whereas I found in larger cities, there’s not so much collaboration because there’s just so much going on.”
Events coming up with SCH to recognize SAAM include trivia and bing nights at Alibi Ale Works Truckee and Incline Village locations, where proceeds will benefit the agency.
Those game nights will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Incline Public House, with dates still to be announced at the Truckee Public House.
In addition, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Truckee Library, Sierra College Professor Christian Name will be hosting a poetry workshop designed to support survivors of sexual assault to look forward to the future with hope and joy.
Another way SCH advocates is through prevention, particularly through presenting to students in the Tahoe/Truckee area.
In the first quarter of 2023, SCH’s Community Education & Prevention Program facilitated approximately 75 violence prevention presentations with 1,100 students in local schools.
“I feel like we look at the issue of sexual assault and healthy relationships really holistically in terms of how we look at our community members,” said Operations and Communications Director Shannon Falker. “They’re really setting the foundation of meeting kids where they’re at. It’s not an explicit course on sexual assault, but it’s really laying the bricks down of what consent means when you’re talking to high school students. When you’re meeting with elementary school students, it’s about how you treat others with kindness, and this is the foundation of healthy friendships and relationships.”
To learn more about Live Violence Free and their services visit liveviolencefree.org.
To learn more about Sierra Community House and their services visit sierracommunityhouse.org.
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