Sexual Assault Awareness Day Event promotes awareness, education and resources
May 6, 2016
Thomas R. Throssell
Gila River Indian News
Several hundred Gila River Indian Community members of all genders and ages came out to District 5 Service Center’s Multipurpose Gym on the morning of April 23 to participate in the Sexual Assault Awareness event “Start By Believing.” The event was held to promote sexual assault awareness, education, promote Community healing, and provide resources for those in need.
Community members began the event with the balloon release and shortly after took to the streets of District 5 for a 2-mile Fun Run and 1-mile walk.
Angel Cruz, Sexual Assault Awareness Coordinator, said that the event was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and was held to provide awareness about sexual violence in the Community.
“April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month…[and at] today’s event we did the balloon release, which was really important, it signifies that we are here supporting the victims of sexual violence and to promote healing,” she said. “That is our biggest goal and mission, it is to be there as support.”
Lt. Gov. Monica Antone talked about the damage sexual abuse causes in the Community and how it is important to spread awareness of the sometimes taboo subject.
Guest speaker Guadalupe Lopez, of the Minnesota Indian Women Sexual Assault Coalition, spoke on how both men and women of the Community need to be involved in eradicating sexual violence and the harm it creates in families across all of Indian Country.
Gila River Police Department detective Tyesha Wood took to the stage talking about sexual violence, asking Community members how they would respond if one of their own family members or friends came to them asking for help.
Robin Begaye, Crime Victim Services Coordinator, said that while it is important to raise awareness about sexual violence in the Community, it is also crucial that people know CVS is there to help.
“We want to let people know that CVS is here to support victims,” said Begaye.
“It is happening generation after generation, and because nobody is talking about it, it continues to happen,” she said. “The Community can prevent this from happening and education is the key. Knowing who to reach out to is important because when families don’t know what to do, that is just another reason to hide it.”
During the month of April there were several events and activities held in the Community to promote awareness about sexual violence. These events were supported in part by a grant awarded to GRIC by the United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.