ROANOKE, Va. – The second Tuesday in April is known as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month Day of Action.
This is a day that is aimed at stopping sexual assault, harassment and abuse before it happens through education.
SARA, which is the Sexual Assault Crisis Center for the Roanoke Valley, primarily serves victims of sexual violence.
They also provide counseling services for survivors and their loved ones. Counseling is provided by professional staff and is free, voluntary and confidential.
A big part of what SARA does is advocacy and teaching educational workshops.
They want survivors to know there is support for them every step of the way. They also want to educate the public to increase awareness about the impacts of sexual violence.
Teresa Berry, the executive director of SARA Roanoke says, “What we want to do is help people understand that what happened to them is not their fault. That no one deserves to be or asks to be sexually assaulted and that we want people to feel supported, find their voice, and get their lives back.”
All month long, SARA has a series of PSA’s on social media and on their website encouraging people to reach out.
At the end of the month, they are doing a conference around the issues of sexual violence, culture and race.
This conference is called Black Love Matters and it is being held on April 29.
Another local organization that is helping with the conference is TAP, which stands for Total Action for Progress.
One of TAP’s many programs is domestic violence services. They offer emergency assistance and emergency transportation for relocation assistance.
TAP also has a 24/7 hotline (540-580-0775) to help anyone who needs it and for crisis intervention.
Their peer-to-peer support group provides a safe place to connect with other survivors.
“It’s prevalent, it’s an epidemic. Domestic violence is an epidemic. Sexual violence is an epidemic and it is not something that people are typically comfortable talking about. A lot of that silence hides violence and so talking about it and making it part of normal conversation makes it a little more comfortable to speak about,” says Stacey Sheppard, the director of housing and human services for TAP.