Groups Call on Community to Combat Sexual Violence; Awareness of Situations, Behavior Can Prevent It from Happening

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

Recognizing situations that could lead to sexual violence before they happen and speaking out against behaviors that lead to violence: That was the focus of Tuesday's kickoff of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Jacksonville.

The message came from centers for victims of abuse and sexual assault, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Navy during a Community Speak-Out presented by the Women's Center of Jacksonville at City Hall.

Do more than stand by and watch it happen, said Brianne Vallenari, a victim advocate at the Women's Center.

"Hopelessness is not helplessness; it was my call to action," Vallenari said. "So we are asking you ... to get involved and educated about the bystander effect, to learn about statistics and intervention."

Be open when someone comes for help, added Natalie Nguyen, a program assistant at the University of North Florida Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.

"... It takes a lot of courage to come forward and speak about what has happened," Nguyen said. "They may not have the courage to come to the Women's Center, but maybe they can talk to a friend or co-worker."

The Centers for Disease Control reports that one out of every six American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. …