Community Recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and several people gathered at a ceremony in the Bellefontaine City Council Chambers on Monday morning.

TCN Program Director, Debbie Brownlee and her staff work with local schools to help them teach students more about healthy relationships through Erin’s Law.

Brownlee talks about the law:

Cecilia Yelton, MHDAS Director of Community and School-based Prevention, explained more about Erin’s Law to the group:

“Erin’s Law, also known as House Bill 105, was passed into law in December of 2022 and went into effect during the 2023-2024 school year. Erin’s Law is named after Erin Merryn of Illinois, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, who later suffered from an eating disorder and behavior problems due to her abuse, and has worked to pass similar bills in more than 38 states. Through monitoring by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, Erin’s Law requires schools to provide age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education to students in grades k through 12, train School personnel on childhood sexual abuse detection, and inform parents and guardians of sexual abuse warning signs. Each year in Ohio, over 30,000 children are involved in a sustained case of child abuse or neglect; of these, 5000 are related to sexual abuse, specifically. The Stark reality is that far more children suffering from sexual abuse in Ohio as only 38% of child victims disclose, at any point in their life, the sexual abuse they experienced. This means that over half of child sexual abuse cases go unaddressed. Before the passing of Erin’s Law, Ohio had no existing law requiring sexual abuse and dating violence prevention education for students k through 12. This bill closed a gap in prevention and will now offer support, education, and encourage children to come forward and seek help. In addition to sexual abuse prevention, Erin’s Law also requires dating and sexual violence prevention education for grades 7 through 12. This component includes instruction on recognizing dating violence, warning signs, and characteristics of healthy relationships. Statistics suggest that 1 in 12 high school students will experience physical and or sexual dating violence in the United States. Females and students identifying as LGBTQ are at the highest risk. Historically, prevention services have been focused on behavioral health matters such as mental health and substance abuse. The expansion of TCN’s domestic violence and sexual assault crisis Center will allow for expansion into prevention programming that will meet Erin’s Law requirements. This is especially exciting in this space of dating violence and healthy relationships. A topic School counselors have been advocating for quite some time. Collectively, MHDAS is excited about expanding into this space and applauds Debbie and her team for taking an idea and making it come to fruition so quickly. A task that can be quite difficult in today’s workforce landscape.” Brownlee presented Yelton with a certificate of excellence for being an instrumental part of the Erin’s Law programming.

See more about Erin’s Law HERE.

At the program, Bellefontaine Mayor, Dave Crissman made the following proclamation:

WHEREAS, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is intended to draw attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread and has public health implications
throughout our community, and

WHEREAS, rape, sexual assault, and violence greatly impacts our community.  Statistically, one in five women will experience an attempted or completed rape
during their lives and 1/3 of these first occur from ages 11 to 17, and

WHEREAS, child sexual abuse prevention must be a priority to confront the reality that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls will experience a sexual assault before the
age of eighteen, and

WHEREAS, we must work together to educate our community about what can be done to prevent sexual assault as well as reporting and supporting survivors, and

WHEREAS, staff and volunteers of anti-violence programs encourage every person to speak out when witnessing acts of violence however small, and

WHEREAS, the City of Bellefontaine strongly supports the local efforts to actively engage in public and private efforts to report and prevent sexual violence.

NOW, THEREFORE I, David Crissman, Mayor of Bellefontaine, do hereby urge all citizens to join with advocates and law enforcement to play an active role to prevent sexual violence. While we recognize the month of April as SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH, we all need to do more to prevent these life-changing occurrences from happening.

Logan County Commissioner Mike Yoder gave the following proclamation:

WHEREAS, sexual assault affects women, children, and men of all racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds; and

WHEREAS, in addition to the immediate physical and emotional costs, sexual assault may also have associated consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression, homelessness, eating disorders and suicide; and

WHEREAS, sexual assault can be devastating for not only the survivor but also for the family and friends of the survivor; and

WHEREAS, no one person, organization, agency, or community can eliminate sexual assault on their own, but can work together to educate our entire population about what can be done to prevent sexual assault, support victims, survivors, and their significant others, and increase support for agencies providing services to victims and survivors; and

WHEREAS, Sexual Assault Awareness Month provides an excellent opportunity for citizens to learn more about preventing sexual violence before it can start and to show support for the numerous organizations and individuals who provide critical advocacy, services, and assistance to sexual assault survivors; and

WHEREAS, the County of Logan, Ohio strongly supports the efforts of national, state, and local partners, and of every citizen, to actively engage in public and private efforts to prevent sexual violence.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the County of Logan, Ohio to support efforts to eliminate sexual assault and hereby declare April 2024 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sally Stolly from Benjamin Logan Schools talked with the group and said that her students are eager to participate in the programs they present and interact well. Stolly was presented with a certificate of excellence for Benjamin Logan’s participation in the Erin’s Law programming. Benjamin Logan students have participated in several ways and are always eager to show their support. Brownlee said Stolly has been integral to getting this program off the ground.

You can find more about TCN HERE.