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How #MeToo Changed Awareness of Sexual Assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, where survivors and others continue to advocate to raise awareness. That includes the OhioHealth Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), which offers advocacy, medical, social and emotional support services to sexual assault survivors.

Meg Dennis, manager of SARNCO, says this is the 22nd year Sexual Assault Awareness Month has been marked.

“We would like to end sexual violence but it’s to raise awareness about how to prevent it, where to go if it happens,” said Dennis in a recent interview with The Columbus Dispatch, “We don’t want to raise awareness without also providing solutions.”

Social media has created a new awareness of sexual assault, starting with the #MeToo movement that began in October 2017. This saw thousands of women and others posting the hashtag on social media to say they too had been a victim of sexual violence or assault.

Five years and counting since that movement, “I see amplified voices. I see more readiness and willingness to engage in the movement,” Dennis said. “I see more events happening, which is great."

Working alongside Dennis, Jenice Tate, SARNCO’s training coordinator, encourages people to volunteer with SARNCO year-round. “Although we have heightened awareness throughout the month of April, sexual violence occurs every day, all year round, we’re fighting every day,” says Tate.

Tate and Dennis encourage people to volunteer with SARNCO and to offer more prevention services in colleges, schools, businesses and more.

Franklin County, which is the most populous county in Ohio, has the highest rate of sexual assault per capita in the state. Dennis hopes the number is so high is because survivors feel comfortable reporting locally.

“Still, that may not mean more people are assaulted, but that more people report their assaults,” she says.

SARNCO employs community advocates who work with survivors and are not a part of the criminal justice system. Instead, they are a “neutral party,” which can be important so survivors can regain autonomy after being assaulted or raped and get emotional support.

To reach out for support or learn more about SARNCO at OhioHealth, click here.

View the original story in the Columbus Dispatch, click the logo below.

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SARNCO outreach program coordinator Deandre Criddell also did an interview recently with NBC4 about the #MeToo movement and it's impact.  You can read that story by clicking the station's logo below.

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