Ribbons, Bells and Survivors Georgians Focus on Preventing Sex Crimes
Stepzinski, Teresa, The Florida Times Union
WAYCROSS -- Yellow ribbons and ringing church bells will honor sexual assault survivors and help focus attention on prevention of sex crimes this month across Georgia.
Several activities are planned around the state to help mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which started yesterday.
Gov. Roy Barnes is scheduled to sign a proclamation recognizing Georgia sexual assault survivors during a Sept. 9 ceremony in Atlanta.
The event will be attended by rape crisis program officials, victims advocates, law enforcement authorities, government officials, church leaders and medical professionals, according to organizers for the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault. The network is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of sexual assault.
In a recent poll, one in six Georgia women said that they had been the victim of sexual assault at some point in their life, according to the Georgia Women's Health Survey.
Last year, 2,229 rapes were reported statewide, up from 2,195 in 1997, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime statistics.
Statewide statistics detailing the number of other sex crimes reported such as child molestation were not immediately available. But 3,607 people were arrested last year in Georgia for sex offenses, GBI records show.
In South Georgia, rape crisis center officials will be passing out yellow ribbons -- each commemorating a sexual assault victim -- and conducting other public awareness activities throughout the month.
The programs based in Waycross and Brunswick are also joining in the statewide network's efforts.
Terry Anderson, director of the Satilla Rape Crisis Program based in Waycross, said churches across Georgia are being encouraged to simultaneously ring their bells 77 times, starting at 10 a.m. Sept. 22, in the "Let Healing Ring" campaign to honor sexual assault survivors.
"The church bells will ring 77 times because national crime statistics show that is how many victims are sexually assaulted every [hour] in the United States," Anderson said.
Satilla rape crisis officials also want to enlist local church leaders to help spread the word about sexual assault prevention and let victims know that help is available nearby. …