Wayne recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/7/21

HONESDALE, PA — More than 40 years have passed since the first “Take Back the Night” events began cropping up throughout the country. Since then, activists throughout the world have …

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Wayne recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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HONESDALE, PA — More than 40 years have passed since the first “Take Back the Night” events began cropping up throughout the country. Since then, activists throughout the world have been campaigning to raise awareness of violence that women face in and out of their homes. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center began coordinating a Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign in the early 2000s. In 2009, President Barrack Obama officially declared April Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

Locally, Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of Wayne County’s Victims Intervention Program (VIP), pays the county commissioners a visit each April to provide an update on what VIP has planned for the remainder of the month. This year, Minor Wolf gave a nod to the “founding mothers” who spent the 1970s and 1980s trailblazing a global movement against sexual violence and violence against women.

Pennsylvania’s first two rape crisis centers were founded in 1972: Women Organized Against Rape in Philadelphia and Pittsburg Action Against Rape. VIP was founded in 1980.

“We’re so much more than rape crisis centers, because we’re about social change and we are activists,” Minor Wolf said. “It’s really about the larger picture, so a lot of the work we try to do for one victim we believe is going to benefit many victims and survivors as well as our whole community, and that’s really where our whole movement started.”

VIP is holding its own annual Take Back the Night on Wednesday, April 21 at 5:30 p.m. out in front of the courthouse.

To raise awareness this year, VIP has painted rocks with inspirational words and quotes like “Believe” and “You matter” and dispersed them throughout the county. Minor Wolf said residents who find them can keep the rocks, move them to another place in the county or leave them where they were found.

VIP also partnered with local coffee shops, including the Belmont Cafe in Waymart and the Wally Lake Cafe in Hawley, to serve their to-go cups with coffee sleeves that read “I ask for consent.”

On Main Street in Honesdale, Finders Keepers, Cat’s Pajamas, Mommy & Me and The Other Shop are coordinating with VIP on a campaign they’re calling, “What were you wearing?” By showing the outfits that rape and sexual violence survivors were wearing at the time they were assaulted, they’re working to dispel the myth that dressing conservatively or not has an impact on a woman’s chances of getting sexually assaulted.

“Sometimes when there’s a victim of rape, she’s asked or he’s asked, ‘What were you wearing?’ as though that mattered—as though that person was assaulted because of what they were wearing. But we know that has absolutely nothing to do with it,” Minor Wolf said.

The outfits are based on stories VIP has gathered over the years from clients with a brief description of the outfits’ significance. Minor Wolf clarified that outfits are based on clients from many years ago and that the 

information displayed will have no identifying information.

On Thursday, April 22 at the Inn at Noble Lane in Bethany, VIP and a group called Let The Women Speak are promoting the author Gigi Kilroe. Kilroe has written a new book about surviving sexual violence.

“It is filled with hope and resilient stories, I’ve read many books that survivors have written, and this one is just so filled with encouragement for others,” Minor Wolf said. “The most important part of all of that, the very first time [Kilroe] ever spoke [about her experience] was at our Take Back the Night in Honesdale, and she said that’s what opened the door for her.”

The commissioners thanked the VIP team and Minor Wolf in particular for the work that they do in the community.

“I want to thank you for how hard you work and how well you do it,” commissioner Jocelyn Cramer said. “You work so well and collaborate with other efforts and support other efforts, and you’re everywhere. I love how you work within the community and how well you serve the community.”

VIP housing specialist Diana Olivas took a moment to recognize Minor Wolf specifically.

“This has been a hard year in every way, and for people who do the work that we do, we are really, really, exceptionally well cared for,” she said. “Michele makes sure... that our needs are met, so that when we go out into the public, we can be our best.”

For more information about VIP, visit www.vipempowers.org. Residents in need of a crisis counselor can call the 24/7 hotline at 570/253-4401.

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