[This story was written by Lindsey Crusan-Muse, director of St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services.]
April is both Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a time to honor and acknowledge victims/survivors who have experienced abuse. Unfortunately, these crimes are all too common.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Intimate Partners and Sexual Violence survey, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the United States report that they have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, and that nearly 700,000 children experience abuse every year. These statistics emphasize the urgent need for communities to provide supportive services for victims/survivors.
Unfortunately, sexual assault and child abuse victims/survivors can experience short- and long-term negative health outcomes at a higher rate than those who have not been victimized. The CDC identified these can include behavioral health outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, and anxiety, as well as physical health outcomes including asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and limitations in their activities.
Fortunately, help for victim/survivors of sexual assault and child abuse is available. St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services encompasses three programs which are focused on accomplishing the mission of reducing the trauma of crime and supporting victims.
Our team of professional staff and volunteers provide victims and survivors with advocacy, legal and medical accompaniment, and support through our Support and Advocacy Program. Victims/survivors of crime have access to short-term counseling, trauma therapy, advocacy, accompaniments and support groups – all at no cost – to help them cope with and recover from their experiences.
Our Forensic Examiner Program provides forensic exam services for victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic/intimate partner violence, elder abuse, child abuse, trafficking, and physical assault at all St. Peter’s Health Partners emergency departments. Finally, the Prevention Education and Community Engagement Program offers no-cost training for schools, organizations, and professionals.
We are happy to be offering several virtual events during April to acknowledge the impact of the trauma of sexual assault and child abuse, to inform the community of available support services, and to highlight the resilience of victims/survivors of these crimes. Our planned virtual events include several free educational seminars, film screenings and panel discussions, and an Art Show featuring artwork by victims/survivors who have received services from our program.
Finally, we are holding a virtual 5k run/walk/roll, “Strides for Survivors,” throughout the month of April. Visit www.spcrimevictimservices.org to learn more and to register.
For more information about Crime Victim Services, please call 518-271-3410 or visit our website at sphp.com/crimevictimservices. If you or someone you know has been the victim/survivor of a crime and needs to speak with someone outside of business hours, you can contact our 24-hour confidential hotline at 518-271-3257. You can also receive forensic medical care, at any time of day or night, at any of St. Peter’s emergency departments.