WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County is continuing to support victims in the North Country.

The month is dedicated to creating public awareness of the topic and shining light on support opportunities for victims in the North country.

“I really think these subjects should be talked about every month, but this is a month designated to sexual assault awareness,” stated VAC Development Director in Training Kirstin Proven. “We definitely want to bring the awareness to the community on the resources that are available to them.”

According to Proven, sexual assault is any sexual contact that is forced or unwanted. It is a spectrum that can include rape, incest, sexual abuse and molestation and harassment.

Proven also reported that these incidents happen to men, women, teens and children; all cases seen and supported at the Center.

To provide support, the VAC provide many programs to victims of sexual assault.

One of which is its SANE, or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program. This program contracts with local registered nurses and responds to four North Country hospitals. Through the SANE program, victims are offered a complete physical and forensic evidence collection examination, the ew York State Sexual Offense Evidence Collection Kit and expert testimony.

Proven added, “the evidence can be collected in case they needed to prosecute individuals, if the client so chooses to do so.”

The VAC also offers a 24-hour telephone hotline, 24-hour safe shelter, homeless housing, advocacy, counseling, an immediate response team and the Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York.

The Center also reminded victims of their rights following an incident, this includes:

  • A forensic medical exam, free of charge
  • Pressing charges against the offender
  • Requesting the services of a rape crisis advocate
  • Confidentiality in all services
  • Knowledge to if the offender is being released from custody
  • Having a third party explain any medical or legal proceedings

However, ultimately the VAC shared their support for any needs of victims of sexual assault. Emphasizing that it is never the victims fault. 

“We don’t want any sexual assault survivors to suffer in silence. We’re here to help you,” expressed Proven.

The Victim’s Assistance Center of Jefferson County can be contacted at 315-782-1823. The 24-Hour Hotline and Shelter can be contacted at 315-782-1855.