April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; advocates honored, Green Dot training program gets national recognition

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, so the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs held a ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda in late March to recognize several people’s prevention and advocacy efforts.A state news release said Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton read a proclamation from Gov. Matt Bevin noting that Kentucky has higher-than-average rates of sexual violence, and Glenna Bevin presented the awards. “Their accomplishments are not only uplifting survivors, they are saving lives,” the first lady said.

Four Kentuckians received Sexual Assault Awareness Month awards: Michelle Kuiper, for her legislative activism and using her voice as a survivor; Maj. John Harvey of the Kentucky National Guard for his work with the guard’s sexual assault prevention and response programs; Lt. Carolyn Nunn of the Louisville Metro Police Department; Laura Kinney of the Women’s Crisis Center in Northern Kentucky.

KASAP Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald said she’s seen major progress in prevention efforts and community engagement.

“Initiatives to combat sexual violence may include counseling, school- and business-based prevention programs or just a supportive conversation,” she said. “We are much more open about supporting survivors and not accepting high-risk behaviors.”

Recktenwald said an approach invented at the University of Kentucky was the subject of a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Green Dot teaches a communal method for bystanders to get involved in a safe and responsible way when witnessing possible sexual violence or coercion.

The study found that in Kentucky high schools that didn’t receive the training, sexual violence — including harassment, stalking and dating violence reported by students — remained steady or went up overall, while in schools that received the training, incidents of sexual violence decreased by as much as 50 percent.

“Green Dot is teaching teenagers to be empowered — to interrupt a risky situation or to say something to a teacher,” Recktenwald said. “Through training young adults, we are increasing mindset that sexual violence is unacceptable.”

For more information about the sexual assault prevention programs and services and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, go to http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/violenceprevention.htm or http://www.kasap.org/SAAM.html.

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