Officials of the Sexual Assault Center (SAC) are in the process of creating an area within their current facility that is designed exclusively to provide expert and reliable forensic evaluation for rape survivors in a compassionate and supportive setting….
Heather Meshell, Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator, “I don't know that there's necessarily anything on the front end that someone can do to protect themselves from sexual assault,” Meshell said. “Abusers look for vulnerable situations to take advantage of people, and I think we see that in the Massage Envy cases.”
Alicia Bunch, Therapist and Hispanic Outreach coordinator, speaks with the Hispanic Family Foundation about the topic of sexual harassment in our culture.
Heather Meshell with the Nashville Sexual Assault Center said a sexual assault is one of the hardest things to report, but it’s becoming easier.
“People are talking about it. It's not as stigmatized as it once was because we are all realizing the ‘Me Too’ campaign. We are all realizing this affects more people we originally recognized,” Meshell said.
Learn more about SAC’s new initiative, SAFE BAR, and how we hope to reduce the instance of drug-facilitated sexual assault by training bar and restaurant staff from Sharon Travis, Community Outreach and Prevention Specialist.
This is the largest crowd I've seen here yet," retiring executive director Tim Tohill said as he marveled at the size of the crowd. In fact, Tim was being honored for his 25 years of exemplary leadership. The gala, which was also celebrating its 25th anniversary, has become one of Nashville's signature charitable events, offering an elegant evening of fun, energy and passion for the mission of SAC.
With a new headline involving accusations of sexual assault being published seemingly every day, many are wondering why victims wait so long to come forward. Sexual assault experts say these public reports are providing a powerful opportunity for victims to talk about their private, life-altering experiences – and trust that someone may finally hear and believe them. "You can never say too many times, 'I believe you, I support you, and I know this is not your fault,’” said Jessica Labenberg, a victim advocate at the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville.
"As a community we are having those conversations, and we are having conversations that focus on holding offenders accountable, and saying sexual assault, sexual harassment will not be tolerated. That is not appropriate and that will not be tolerated in our communities," said Jessica Labenberg, Sexual Assault Center.
Jessica Labenberg is the advocacy director of the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville. She said while the posts can be therapeutic for some survivors, it's not for everyone.
“The term that gets used a lot within our practice area is it can be re-traumatizing," Labenberg said. "It can be re-triggering for someone to have to tell their story over and over.”
Labenberg said the more people feel comfortable talking about sexual assault, the more comfortable they'll feel reporting it which can lead to prevention.
Have sexual abuse and harassment become so embedded into our culture and daily lives that as a society we are growing to accept it? I refuse to believe that is true. So what can we do to change this silent epidemic? We must keep talking. There are thousands of brave individuals who daily share their stories of experiencing the trauma of sexual assault and harassment. We must listen to them, but we have to do more ... we have to make change.
“Part of that is saying men are less accountable because boys will be boys, and women who are sexual or selling sex are sort of these temptresses,” said Sarah Orton with the Sexual Assault Center. Orton said the statistics are scary. “What we are showing them are Johns are safer and more valuable members of society,” Orton said. Both advocates point out, most prostitutes are victims of crimes themselves.
Sexual assault advocates said high-profile scandals actually encourage more victims to come forward. Advocates want victims to know there's a growing support system for them.
"Raising awareness is a huge part of the battle," Brown added. "I think that's a big part of Safe Bar, telling people in our community that this happens. We need to start talking about it. We can't be silent anymore. And let's talk about ways that we can protect each other and really care for each other."
The Sexual Assault Center’s Mad Hatter Gala was held at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, where the spotlight was on Tim Tohill, the organization’s president who is retiring after 25 years. Since the first gala more than 20 years ago, over two million dollars have been raised to benefit Middle Tennessee’s Sexual Assault Center.
Lisa and John Campbell graciously hosted patrons of this year’s Mad Hatter Gala in their Belle Meade home.
Sharon Travis with the Sexual Assault Center explained the ongoing "rape culture." "Other kids are videotaping while it's going on so it's not like there isn't someone around to interrupt or disrupt it," Travis said. "When we're talking about adolescents and the rape culture, they have an added pressure with navigating social media and understanding boundaries."
Learn more about SAC’s annual event, Mad Hatter, taking place on Friday, September 15, 2017.
Katie Davis, Event Coordinator, talks with iHeart Radio about SAC’s annual Mad Hatter Gala taking place on Friday, September 15, 2017.
The Sexual Assault center said that's leading some teachers in the state to not teach anything, in fear they might get sued if a student asks a question outside of "abstinence-only." "We do have some laws that are crafted that tie the hands of teachers and educators and community people from being able to have open and thorough conversations about this topic," said Sharon Travis with the Sexual Assault Center.
SAC’s Kim Janecek discusses the importance of talking and educating our youth when it comes to sexual assault prevention.
Kim Janecek said it’s a conversation every parent should have but few talk about. "Sexual assault is one of those taboo topics no one wants to talk about, but it happens to one in four girls and one in six boys before they turn 18," said Janecek, curriculum manager at the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville.
SAC’s Vice President, Rachel Freeman, speaks to student policies. "How do you handle it when someone does something illegally to you? That requires more than a respectful conversation with your alleged offender."
An opinion piece about how we all are responsible for preventing child sex abuse by SAC’s President, Tim Tohill.
Erin’s Law, which passed in 2014, requires all public schools to adopt a sex abuse education curriculum. However, there is no penalty if they don’t. “Unfortunately, not all of the students are using the program, so their students don’t understand or know or feel empowered to speak up if they know something is going on,” Janecek said. Janecek said 57 schools in all of Tennessee use their training program.
SAC’s Sharon Travis speaks to how micro-aggressions can lead to sexual violence.
Nashville General Hospital, a community partner with SAC, speaks to the increasing need of more options for survivors of sexual assault and SAC’s plans of a new sexual assault forensic clinic.
Join SAC at Kali Yuga Yoga on May 3rd as they participate in The Big Payback
Kim Janecek, the prevention education curriculum manager with the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, said parents are calling her with questions. Many want to know how to talk about the Amber Alert with their children. "Ask the kids, 'What do you think about that?' and say that's not OK to have that type of relationship with your teacher," Janecek said. She said it's important to lay out what boundaries are and when they can be crossed.
Kim Janecek with the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville said it's a case that's important to talk to your kids about. "Parents just need to sit down and make sure that they understand why it's inappropriate to have this type of relationship with an adult," Janecek said. She said kids need to understand boundaries between themselves and grownups: what's ok, and what's not.
SAC Janecek said teens may not know they are a victim when they are looking for that acceptance…