4/08/2013 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI – April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and today U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined with advocates from Day One to promote the need for communities to work together to prevent and respond to sexual violence, raise awareness of victims’ rights and services, and honor victims and survivors.  Day One provides advocacy, clinical services, education, and training, and is working to create a community that is free of sexual abuse and violence.

According to the latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million women are raped every year, and one in five women have been raped at some point in their lifetimes.  Last year, Day One provided services to 9,000 Rhode Islanders. Fifty percent of the victims were under the age of 18.

Throughout the month, Rhode Island advocacy groups are calling attention to the injustice of sexual trauma and reminding victims that people care, help is available, and one victim is too many.  Victims of sexual assault who would like to speak with someone about options or learn about specific services available in their area, are encouraged to call Day One on the 24-hour Victims of Crime Helpline (1-800-494-8100).

“For forty years now, Day One has been there for Rhode Islanders, the first place they can turn to for help after a sexual assault.  While we have made great strides over the decades, sexual violence is still a pervasive problem and all too often a silent epidemic.  April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – a time to break the silence and give survivors a voice.  Today we are joining with advocates from across the state and the country to let people know that help is available and they are not alone,” said Reed.

“It’s important for victims of sexual assault to know they are not alone. Today I’m proud to stand with Senator Reed and Day One to call attention to National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and to highlight the important resources available to victims,” said Whitehouse.

“We are so grateful for the leadership and support that both Senators Reed and Whitehouse have consistently provided on behalf of victims of sexual abuse.  So much has been accomplished in the past 40 years and with their continued support and the help of the entire Rhode Island Community, we will continue to work toward ending sexual violence,” said Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One.

In the U.S. Senate, Reed and Whitehouse both cosponsored, and recently voted to pass, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  While the law has been reauthorized, it must now be funded.  Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, and Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Judiciary Committee, want to ensure VAWA’s programs receive the federal funding they need to provide services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.  Earlier this year, Reed and Whitehouse helped secure a $117,344 federal grant to help Day One advocate for sexual assault victims of all ages, educate the public, and work toward prevention.

The VAWA reauthorization bill includes a provision to help reduce the backlog of untested rape kits sitting in the possession of law enforcement agencies across the country, which experts have estimated could be as high as 400,000.  In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Forensic Sciences Laboratory examines evidence and provide expert scientific opinion in legal and criminal cases and has received federal funding to help eliminate the backlog. 

According to the latest FBI statistics, the national DNA Index System contains more than 11 million profile samples from federal, state, and local forensic laboratories who contribute to the system.  As of January 2013, Rhode Island had nearly 15,300 offender profiles and more than 650 forensic profiles and that DNA has assisted in more than 125 investigations.

“While VAWA has been reauthorized, it must now be funded.  We are committed to ensuring VAWA’s programs receive the federal funding they need to provide services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.  The timely testing of sexual assault kits must be a priority.  We want to ensure law enforcement has the tools it needs to effectively prevent violence, solve more crimes, and prosecute offenders,” said Reed and Whitehouse in a joint statement.

Established in 1973 as the R.I. Rape Crisis Center, Day One is the only agency in Rhode Island organized specifically to deal with issues of sexual assault as a community concern.  Day One’s mission is to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence, and to support and advocate for those affected by it.  For more information, visit www.dayoneri.org.