PASSAGES Ramping Up Awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month
CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, PASSAGES, Inc., Clarion County’s sexual violence advocacy and prevention organization, has a number of special fundraisers and programs happening in our area.
(Pictured: Marlene Austin and Carolyn Confer-Vogt of PASSAGES, Inc.)
Founded as Clarion County’s Rape Crisis Center in 1980, it expanded into Jefferson County in 1983, and changed its name to PASSAGES, an acronym for Prevention And Service For Sexual Assault through Guidance, Empowerment, and Support, in 1995. It further expanded into Clearfield County in 1998.
With a primary mission of advocating for the rights and needs of survivors of sexual violence while working to eliminate all forms of sexual violence by educating community members and promoting social change, the organization is funded in part by the United Way of Clarion County. The organization offers everything from individual and group counseling and a 24-hour hotline to legal and medical advocacy and sexual violence prevention and education programs.
Executive Director Marlene Austin told exploreClarion.com that the organization serves around 500 clients per year, while also presenting over 800 prevention programs annually.
In the month of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, PASSAGES, Inc. ramps up some of its community efforts with fundraisers and events.
According to Volunteer Coordinator Carolyn Confer-Vogt, this year they visited businesses in Clarion, Jefferson, and Clearfield Counties requesting that the businesses display a jar for donations and offer ribbons to those who donate.
“They can write their name or a message on the ribbon, and the ribbons are hung up and displayed at the businesses,” Confer-Vogt noted.
“It was a big surprise to see how many businesses were willing to support us in our mission to help victims and survivors in our communities. It’s been really great to see that.”
Along with the ribbon fundraiser, there are also several other efforts in progress.
At Daddy’s Main Street in Clarion, there is a special PASSAGES Charity Burger available this month, and for each burger sold, $1.00 will go to help support PASSAGES.
“Daddy’s is doing a phenomenal job. They’ve already put up over 250 ribbons, and they’re also doing the burger. We just really appreciate everything they’re doing,” Austin said.
At Fusion Cafe in Brookville, along with the ribbons, people can also see a window display featuring real stories of survivors of sexual assault, from ages three to 80, along with the clothing they were wearing when they were assaulted.
“It’s still a thing to ask how a victim was dressed,” Austin said. “This gives their story and shows that it doesn’t matter, they’re just shirts and pants and suits.”
The Hourglass Bar in Brookville is also showing their support by donating 10% of the profits from the evening of April 13, when they will have two live bands playing.
“It’s a really great thing they’re doing, too,” said Confer-Vogt.
There are many places in the local area to make a donation this month.
Clarion: Michelle’s Cafe, Toby Hill Bar and Grill, Daddy’s Main Street, Artfunkle, Sweet Euphoria, The Meadow’s, Shick’s Gifts and Tobacco, Cozumel, Studio 13, and Smoke for Less.
Brookville: Buff’s Ice Cream, Dirty Erhma’s, Bloom on Main, Opera House, Fusion Cafe, and Hourglass Bar.
Brockway: Bill’s Place, Paesano’s Pizza, Great China, and Carnesali’s.
Reynoldsville: Annie’s Hometown Restaurant, Oh La La’s Salon, and Downtown Beer Distributor.
Punxsutawney: Neko’s, Dark Star Tattoo Studio, and Roseman’s Florist and Gifts.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
Along with the other efforts, April is also when PASSAGES, Inc. holds their annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
This year, which is the sixth year for the event, they are holding it in conjunction with Clarion University’s women and gender studies program and V-Day Project student group on Wednesday, April 10.
The event is also supported by a Clarion University Community Fellows Program grant. Student organizations Phi Sigma Sigma, English Club, and Sigma Tau Delta provide additional support.
Walk a Mile is the international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. Men are encouraged to walk in red heels, which are available from PASSAGES. Women are encouraged to support the men by wearing a white shirt for the walk.
Event day registration begins at 4:00 p.m. in Gemmell multi-purpose room.
The walk starts at 5:00 p.m. It begins and ends at Gemmell Student Center at Clarion University.
Unlike previous years, this year PASSAGES, Inc. has also turned the event into a fundraiser where the individual or team that raises the most money will receive an award.
According to Austin, both the awareness and the fundraising are important, as statistically, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old, and on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States with an assault occurring every 98 seconds.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, and though anyone can become a victim of sexual violence, the overwhelming majority of survivors are women. NSVRC statistics show that 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female, and 9% are male.
Programs like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” and Fusion Cafe’s window display seek to open communication about sexual violence in our communities and also help men better understand women’s experiences, to improve gender relations, and ultimately, to decrease the potential for violence.
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