Sexual violence is one of the least reported and most traumatic crimes.
In 2019, more than 40 survivors from Marshalltown were served by the Access Assault Care Center, 70 survivors were served in Marshall County.
Access Assault Care Center is based in Ames. This organization helps survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. The center also serves the districts of Marshall, Boone, Greene, Story and Tama.
In 2019, 59 sexual assaults were reported in Marshalltown and 13 were reported in Marshall District.
“What was reported was only a small part of what actually happened,” said Lydia Wolken, Marshall and Tama County sexual harassment attorney for the Assault Care Center. “If we think about the number of reports Marshalltown took versus the number of victims we served in Marshalltown, the numbers are usually very different.”
More often victims know the perpetrator personally and leave a scar forever and ever. The Access Assault Center works with victims and wants to destigate the reporting of sexual violence.
Community Foundation Grants
In March, Access received a $ 3,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Marshall County.
The grant will help the emergency financial system for survivors, said Tess Cody, executive director of Access.
A number of victims experienced housing instability “What often helps is giving people a month to pay rent,” Said Cody.
This grant helps provide support for victims who are a large part of what Access is doing.
“We serve every survivor of sexual assault,” Said Wolken.
Access helps victims of sexual assault as well as family members or anyone affected by the attack.
“We are free and confidential to anyone who lives in our service area,” Said Wolken. “If someone does not want to report to law enforcement, they really can still work with advocates.”
April is the month of Sexual Assault Awareness, and this helps uncover the evil that is often left in the dark.
“Knowing that sexual violence can affect anyone of any age, this month my heart goes to survivors who, due to the COVID-19 crisis, are more isolated than ever before,” Said Cody. “Social distance is really physical distance but we can be socially connected.”
It’s important to look for the most vulnerable people, he said.
The pandemic has also caused many victims to be trapped inside with the perpetrators due to quarantine.
“Nationally the domestic violence hotline has seen a big surge in their call for services,” Said Cody. “People who hurt them are usually family members, close friends.”
The main dynamic of sexual harassment is how it thrives in a quiet, remote and quiet environment.
“Unfortunately, the way we navigate away has created an environment of unintentional secrecy,” Said Cody.
The Marshalltown Police Department takes sexual assault seriously and the Sexual Assault Awareness month gives them the opportunity to communicate about issues that are not sufficiently discussed.
“I think this is an opportunity to deliberately in our efforts to talk with the public about the crimes of sexual violence and how they impact our community and we can work together as a community to overcome this problem,” said Mike Tupper, Marshalltown Police Chief.
He echoes Wolken’s sentiment about the number of reported cases of sexual assault that do not match the number of actual attacks.
“Around 20 to 30 percent of crimes that occur in your community are actually reported to law enforcement,” Tupper said. “A large number of cases are not reported and there are victims out there who do not receive services and there are violators who are not held accountable.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Tupper and Access from holding a community event to spread the word about Sexual Assault Awareness month.
Tupper and the Marshalltown Police Department have posted videos and posts on social media so the public knows about the Sexual Assault Awareness month.
“A multidisciplinary approach is needed to overcome this problem; this is not just law enforcement, “ Tupper said.
MPD works with Access and other groups to help victims and spread awareness.
“Many of the sex crimes we deal with involve children as victims,” Tupper said. “We have to work closely with many groups to help the victims, but also bring awareness to this problem and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
Unfortunately sex crimes have a large social stigma around them. Often victims are accused of leading attacks or victims are blamed in other ways.
Tupper and MPD have worked hard to lift the stigma and tell the victims that they can reach them.
“Everything starts with communication,” Tupper said. “Things are getting better, but there are still many people who are just having trouble understanding how this crime can occur and too often we still see victims blaming.”
To blame Tupper victims doesn’t make sense.
“If your house is damaged so that no one will blame you for the crime, but too often when someone becomes a victim of sexual violence there will be people who are looking for reasons to blame the victim,” Tupper said. “This is the only crime that I know that we did to the victims. I think we still have some work to do to overcome the stigma.”
Tupper has been involved in investigations of sexual assault and he rarely finds false reports.
“It’s still common for people to blame victims,” Tupper said. “That is a terrible crime. It is something that affects people for the rest of their lives and I think as a society we need to do a better job of trying to support victims and ensure they have the resources they need to recover.
Access works with victims, regardless of how long they were attacked.
“Sometimes their attacks have just happened and we respond to hospitals in real time,” Said Wolken. “Next time they come to us in the next 15 or 20 years because they are now parents and they want to have a channel to talk about their attacks so they can better prepare themselves when they have to talk to their children about those things that could potentially happen. . “
Awareness, sometimes, the best way to prevent bad things from happening.
“If you are not aware of something then you are not aware of the movement to stop it,” Said Wolken.
April was set as the month of Sexual Assault Awareness as a way to help victims know that they were not alone.
“People are really interested in having a day or a month to recognize things and if that’s the best way to get someone’s attention about that problem then that’s the way we will continue to do it,” Said Wolken.
April is also a month of awareness of child abuse and often sexual violence and child abuse occur at the same time.
The Sexual Assault Month is also a good way to reach rural communities where there may not be much awareness for the rest of the year, Wolken said.
“Having this month makes it an easier and more direct way to reach everyone,” she says. “Hopefully we can maintain that for the rest of the year.”
Access still provides support to victims.
“We are still taking references, we are still working with people,” Said Wolken. “I know for sure at Marshalltown that the number of reports is down. We suspect the number of attacks is higher than before, because people are stressed and people are at home and that is one of the things that generally causes an increase in attacks to occur.”
Wolken wants people to know that even if they don’t accept walk-ins, their crisis line is always open.
“People definitely have to reach out if they need support,” Said Wolken.
Access is a non-profit and people can contribute by visiting their website.
“Right now things are a little different from the real contribution because COVID-19 and things are closed now,” Said Wolken.
There is still help and the abused are not alone.
“People can still go to the police. People can still go to the hospital,” Said Cody. “Our emergency protection is still here.”
Cody heard about the victims weighing their choices from the fear of continued abuse versus the fear of a public health crisis.
“The victim knows the best way,” Said Cody.
Victims of sexual violence can still reach out and they will still be heard by Access, Marshalltown Police and others.
“Sometimes the public does not make it easy for victims to move forward,” Tupper said. “This is a conversation that we must have throughout the year.”
Sexual Harassment: 1-800-203-4641
Domestic Violations: 1-855-696-4641
Housing / Residence: 1-855-696-2980
Contact Thomas Nelson at (641)753-6611 or [email protected]