‘Take Back the Night’ event focuses on social media and sexual exploitation

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“Directions! Support & Advocacy Services”, a program of Community Mental Health Center, Inc., will again host its annual ‘Take Back the Night’ event.

This year’s event, featuring the topic “Social Media and Sexual Coercion,” focuses on helping individuals prevent and avoid sexual victimization through social media. The program begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4th, at the Dearborn Adult Center, 311 Tate Street, Lawrenceburg.

The Directions! event is held during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to promote awareness of sexual assault and related crimes and the impact of these crimes on society. According to a recent National Crime Victim Research study, one in six women and men in Indiana are victims of rape. In a report released in January 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released cited statistics showing the number of rapes in the U.S. has increased by 9.6 percent. Eighty percent of sex crimes are perpetrated by assailants known to the victim.

‘Take Back the Night’ is a national campaign to bring greater awareness to the violent crimes of rape and sexual assault. 2017 marks the 11th consecutive year Directions! has hosted this event. Join with family, friends, co-workers and community leaders to reclaim the night from sexual predators. This event is free and open to the public.

The evening features inspirational messages from survivors and information on key strategies to use when confronted by sexual predators. Participants also learn how to help raise awareness in their communities about rape and sexual assault and about how to make a difference in the lives of survivors. Dinner is provided, and door prizes will be awarded. A silent auction of a variety of items will be held throughout the evening.

Featured speaker for the night is Lynn Deddens, Prosecuting Attorney for Dearborn and Ohio counties. Ms. Deddens will speak on how victims are targeted and coerced into “sexting” with complete strangers, as well as with people they may know. Ms. Deddens will explain how offenders are identified and ultimately caught. The discussion will include a social media demonstration and a question-and-answer portion.

As an added bonus, Lindsay Bischoff and Erin Wilhelm, who are both seniors at East Central High School, will present Cyberbullying: Pause Before You Post! Ms. Bischoff and Ms. Wilhelm are advocates against cyberbullying. The duo designed this program for their school and have presented it nationally, in Washington, D.C., and San Diego, for the national conference of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

The Clothesline Project will again be on display, as well. Originating in Massachusetts in 1990, The Clothesline Project now encompasses more than 500 communities and several foreign countries. It has become a worldwide campaign bringing awareness to violence against women. Shirts featured in the display are created by survivors and family members and friends of survivors in our communities. The Clothesline Project offers a visual tribute to the courage of all survivors.

Rape and sexual assault are grossly underreported crimes in the United States. Only about 40 percent of rapes are reported to law enforcement. Sexual violence and domestic violence are “crimes of silence” and as such leave victims to suffer alone in the shadows. According to the World Health Organization, victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression and are four times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Begin to understand the emotional trauma experienced by victims of sexual coercion through social media and what you can do to support them through the healing process. This session is a must for teens, parents and concerned citizens.

If you or someone you know is a victim of rape or sexual assault, please do not hesitate to seek help. To access Directions! 24-hour confidential crisis services, please call (812) 537-1302 or, toll-free, (877) 849-1248.

For more information on sexual violence, Directions! Support & Advocacy Services, or to inquire about volunteer opportunities as a Directions! advocate, contact Catherine Dwyer at (812) 532-3470, or e-mail Ms. Dwyer at Cathy.Dwyer@cmhcinc.org. Information also is posted on the SAS website at www.rapecrisissas.org. The SAS website features information on a variety of resources, including the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), which has a hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) that directs calls made from the local area to the Directions! program.

All CMHC services are provided without regard to race, religion, disability, gender, color, age, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political belief, status as a veteran, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law.