By Karen Stokes
April in Milwaukee is now dedicated to raising awareness about sexual assault. Sexual violence is prevalent across the country and in the Milwaukee area. Awareness and education concerning sexual abuse is imperative.
On Wednesday, at the Milwaukee County Health & Human Needs Committee Meeting in the Milwaukee County Courthouse, a resolution recognizing the Month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Milwaukee County was unanimously approved.
Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Sequanna Taylor began to do research and found over 5000 sexual child abuse cases last year in this country. She thought about how the trauma these children experienced would affect their adult life. She also thought about the people who helped and advocated for sexual victims in the community.
“This resolution is not only for awareness, but accolades to those who are doing something about it,” said Taylor.
One of the people who advocates for sexual abuse victims is Dr. Alice Belcher, who founded the community outreach program, Christian Woman’s Perspective Ministries.
“Nationally, April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month but to have our specific County step forward and say we as a County are going to recognize this month, gives us the support of the county to address this issue,” Dr. Belcher said.
Delonda Davis, 40, shared a personal story at the meeting of being a sexual assault survivor. Davis was assaulted on the streets of Milwaukee and detailed how there were ‘a lot of juveniles’ who were being abused at the same time she was. This was the first-time Davis spoke about it.
“I was one of those children being abused,” said Davis.
Davis now runs an advocacy organization, Silent Cries. “I reach out to other families and mentor them on their own specific needs,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, sexual abuse is at a very high rate and no one speaks about it. Even though I’m healing and moving forward, there’s still scars there. I know that a lot of people have those scars and we need to shed light on it.”
“Research shows that the actual number of sexual abuse for children is greater than that of adults because it is so secret and because it’s in the home,” Dr. Belcher said. “Over 80 percent of that abuse is from someone the child already knows and in their residences.”
Aurora Sexual Treatment Center is the only provider of immediate care services in the Milwaukee area. Aurora has trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) nurses at hospitals in Kenosha, Sheboygan, Oshkosh, Manitowoc and Green Bay. Aurora saw 730 cases in 2016.
Aurora Sexual Treatment Center’s overview of services include advocacy, medication for STD’s, documentation of injury, evidence collection, accompaniment with law enforcement when interviewed, long term follow up and more. All services are free of charge.
Sharain Horn, RN,MSN, who works in the Abuse Response Services at Aurora Sinai believes that one of the main ways to decrease sexual assault in our community is education.
“Education can dispel some of the myths of sexual violence,” Horn said.
One myth, according to Horn was that most children are molested by a stranger on the street or at the playground, but in reality, the person molesting a child is someone close and intimate like a family member or caregiver.
“We need to make sure people are reporting it, not keeping it hidden, intervene with family,” said Horn. “If we have things going on in our family that are unsafe or unhealthy, we should be talking about them, and not pushing them under the rug.”
The biggest myth of sexual violence is that the problem can be eliminated by something the victim can change. It’s not about what clothes you wear or where you are.
“Sexual assault is prevalent. The majority of people that commit sexual assault commit multiple assaults,” Horn said.
“Sexual assault awareness is very important for women to start the healing process,” said community activist Tracy Dent. “It lets them know they can open up and that we are here for you.”