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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month or SAAM for short. During this month, champions of domestic violence prevention across the United States raise awareness about sexual violence, how to prevent it, and how to support those who are affected by it.  Each year the National Sexual Violence Resource Center selects a campaign theme. This year’s campaign theme, I Ask, supports the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and a necessary part of everyday interactions.

 What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault includes any sexual behavior that is against the will of another person (often through manipulation, force or coercion). Types of sexual assault include rape, sexual battery, child sexual abuse, incest, and same-sex assault.

Did You Know?

  • Every 2 minutes someone in the USA is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.
  • Each year there are about 293,000 victims of sexual assault.
  • 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while at college.
  • 42% of college women who are raped tell no one about the assault.
  • 1 in every 4 girls and 1 in every 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.

 What can I do?

Educating yourself and others, helping a friend who is being abused, speaking up, and being an engaged bystander are all examples of things you can do to help.

  • If a survivor shares their story with you, help them feel comfortable by being an active and supportive listener. It is important that they feel heard and believed.
  • Spread awareness through social media and educate those around you.
  • Learn more about laws and policies impacting survivors and prevention programming.
  • Participate in Denim Day - April 24th. Denim Day began after a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. In a statement by the Chief Judge, he argued, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.” Denim Day has grown into a national movement to raise awareness of rape and sexual assault.


Where can I go to get help?  

Always call the police in the event of an emergency. Domestic violence shelters, like HOPE’s Emergency Safe shelter,  accept rape and sexual assault victims who need a place to stay as space permits. HOPE Family Services also provides free group and individual counseling to those affected. Colleges and universities also offer resources and completely free counseling. Be sure to know where and how they work and what services they provide.

Another local agency, Centerstone, is a great resource and specifically works with sexual assault and trauma services. At the national level, RAINN and Take Back the Night are the two biggest organizations devoted to victim advocacy and sexual assault and rape prevention and care.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available by phone (800.656.HOPE) and online (online.rainn.org). Talk with someone who is trained to help anytime, 24/7.

Recap: 22nd Annual Black & White ... An Evening Over the Rainbow

On Saturday, March 16th, our 22nd annual fundraising gala event Black & White...An Evening Over the Rainbow was held at IMG Academy Golf Club.

The event’s theme spoke to its occurrence on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, and our fabulous planning committee created decorations that included a traditional St. Patrick’s theme with green shamrocks and pots of gold coins at the end of a rainbow. Every guest was greeted with a glass of champagne at the door and invited to mingle and meet the other guests while enjoying the h'orderves and cocktails. Throughout the night, guests participated in a fun photo booth, wine drawings, and raffles.

Once everyone was seated, HOPE Family Services’ CEO, Laurel Lynch, spoke and presented a video with an emotional, survivor’s story (see video here). After the video, the survivor, Amy, shared some thoughtful words about the help she received from HOPE Family Services. Stories like Amy’s helped to remind us about the impact of each donation and the importance of educating the community about domestic violence. During dinner, Laurel Lynch presented the featured raffle prize winners (Bucket of Booze winner - Terry Brennan and Lottery Pot O’ Gold winner - Shannon Schmidlin). The live auction was hosted by our wonderful grand auctioneer, Brad Laduciana. Items for auction included a week-long luxury getaway in Colorado, week-long sports camp at IMG, an ultimate local date-night including tickets to the Lion King at Van Wezel, and a limousine ride to dinner for 4 at Beach Bistro. The rest of the night included fantastic food and lots of dancing to DJ Keegs.

We were lucky enough to have 190 people attend our 22nd Annual Black & White. This event left us feeling incredibly thankful to have such a strong community supporting our mission.

Our Black & White Gala has been an important part of our annual fundraising efforts and this year was no different. Each contribution made, benefits those affected by domestic violence in Manatee County. We could not have asked for a better evening with better friends! Must be the luck of the Irish!

 

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bwblog2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Click here to see more pictures.

 

We would like to give heartfelt appreciation to:



Presenting Sponsor: It Works! Gives Back Foundation

Event Sponsors: Fidelity Bank, GTL, Oneblood, Beach Bistro, and the Bradenton Herald

VIP Sponsors: Patti & Bob Wrobel, MaryEllen Wilson-Smith, Lawman Benefits Consulting, Inc., Blake Medical Center, Tim & Ashley Gruters, and Cross Country Wealth Management

Committee Chairs: Twila Averill & MaryEllen Wilson-Smith

Auctioneer: The amazing Brad Laudicina

Music: DJ Keegs, Charles Clapsaddle & the magnificent METV Team

Dedicated Board Members: Rosemarie Fisher, President; Mindy Hill, VP; Katie Williams, Secretary; Michelle Cross, CPA, Treasurer; Dr. Judy Smith, Immediate Past President; Ken Alicea, Twila Averill, Detective Yolanda Cox, Daniel Friedrich, Stacey McKnee, Christi Milan, Cheryl Roberts, Neil Unruh, MaryEllen Wilson-Smith, and Patti Wrobel.

We would also like to thank our wonderful volunteers and staff members who work every day to make the world a better place.

Our 22nd Annual Black & White was a huge success, and we are so grateful to everyone that contributed. Until next year!

S.U.G.A.R Shines on HOPE

At HOPE we believe that education is a powerful step in prevention. Last year alone, HOPE's Prevention Team was able to educate, train, and reach over 1,500 youths in Manatee County. We visited local middle and high schools, youth faith-based programs, juvenile detention centers, and after-school programs. Raising awareness and educating adolescents can have an impact on the way they look at personal relationships for the rest of their lives.

We are so fortunate to have organizations in our community that share our belief in educating the youth about important issues, especially domestic violence. One great example is S.U.G.A.R. (Showing Unconditional Goodwill And Respect). This club’s objective is to create projects that encourage kids to become involved in their community while teaching them about the cause they are serving.

S.U.G.A.R. initially started off as a desire for three mothers to have their children learn the value of kindness. However, it has developed into something much bigger. Last year alone, SUGAR had over 450 volunteers participate in projects that supported over 50 local organizations. We are grateful that HOPE Family Services was selected by SUGAR as a local nonprofit to support.

Recently SUGAR volunteers helped create “fresh start baskets” for families transitioning from the safe shelter to get back on their feet. The event was held at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, with packages that included donations from a local school drive and other friends in the community. SUGAR made the activity hands-on and fun for the kid volunteers, by encouraging the children to walk around and collect each item for their care package.

The room was organized similarly to a grocery store, with tables divided into sections for the home: cleaning; dinner; breakfast; paper goods; and miscellaneous. Each volunteer was given an index card with a “shopping” list for a family and a laundry basket for their items. They all picked up paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap, and other items specific to each family. By the end of the event, every package contained a complete dinner and breakfast and the essentials to support the first 24 hours in a new living situation. In total, 31 specialized baskets were made for families transitioning into independent living.

The educational portion of the event was led by HOPE’s Shelter Director, Dawn. She spoke with the volunteers about the purpose of HOPE Family Services and the services provided by staff on a daily basis. “A lot of the kids didn’t know that there were relationships that aren’t healthy,” said Stefanie Guido, Co-Founder of SUGAR. “I think they felt good knowing that there are places to go for people that feel unsafe and can get care provided to them.”

SUGAR’s children reacted by asking questions about what domestic violence looks like and why it occurs. Both the SUGAR adult team and Dawn broke it down into bite-sized pieces by explaining that it may look like someone hurting you physically, or hurting you in your head (emotionally). Stefanie Guido noted, “If kids know what boundaries are, and how to identify them at an early age, it will help increase awareness and protect them for their future.” Dawn also discussed the importance of community support for non-profits like HOPE. Because of community support, 463 residents stayed in HOPE’s emergency shelter last year.

We are so grateful to have a generous and supportive community and organizations like SUGAR to encourage the future generation to help out and give back.

To learn more about SUGAR Volunteers and how you can help, visit their website here.

View event photos here

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM)

When people think of domestic violence and unhealthy relationships, they most likely think of adults. Unfortunately, teen dating violence is much more common than people think. 

Statistics show 1 in 3 teens (ages 12-18) in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone with whom they are in a relationship. Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive behaviors from a dating partner.

In light of these alarming facts, every year during the month of February, HOPE Family Services joins with other local and national organizations to raise awareness about dating violence and to promote healthy relationships.

Adolescents are especially vulnerable to dating violence as many are entering relationships for the first time. The effects of those unhealthy relationships tend to last much longer than the relationship itself. Teens in abusive relationships will often bring the same unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships. Many continue those patterns without an understanding that they are unhealthy and shouldn’t be accepted.

That’s why it’s important to understand and recognize the warning signs. Being able to tell the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be difficult because no two relationships are the same.  See a full list of warning signs here. Bringing awareness to this issue is the first step in preventing dating abuse.

So, how can you help a teenager in your life prevent dating violence?

  • Spread awareness to stop dating abuse before it starts!
  • Practice these three strategies with your teen regularly:
    • Ask a question
    • Listen up
    • Stay connected
  • Know how to recognize warning signs
  • Become informed about resources to help
  • Show your willingness to support them
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship, with friends and family
  • Help them develop a safety plan

While you are trying to help someone that is experiencing dating violence, remember that you cannot “rescue” them. They are ultimately the one who has to make the decision on what they want to do.  Although it is difficult to witness someone you care about get hurt, it’s important to show support and help them find a way to safety and peace.

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