RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Commissioners met with Rio Grande County Victim Advocate Courtney Arthur and Tu Casa Representative Michele Resendiz to present a proclamation for National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Arthur began the presentation by explaining that she and Resendiz were both in training for sexual assault and investigation tactics.
“We brought in trainers from out of the Valley to teach these classes," Arthur said. "We have trainers here from Lakewood police to work with us on domestic violence and sexual assault and investigation. We work really closely with Tu Casa to make sure that victims of these crimes have access to the resources they need here in the Valley.”
Throughout the month of April, Tu Casa will be hosting events in Alamosa to raise awareness about the two serious crimes.
“It is a huge issue in our Valley and in our county. I work 10 to 15 cases if not more throughout the year and that is just adult cases, it does not include child cases. I work with Tu Casa who handles the child advocacy side, and they also do the adult SANE and child SANE programs. SANE is Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program,” explained Arthur. “By passing this proclamation, it shows that our county is not going to continue to allow this to happen. It says we are going to strengthen resources to aid people that are dealing with these things.”
Resendiz with Tu Casa stated that though the organization has spent the last few years transitioning to where they are now, they are ready to hit the ground running.
“It has been a few years of transition and finding funding so that we did not have to close our doors, but we are back in a more stable spot to where we are able to provide services," Resendiz said. "We are getting back out and providing even transportation services which is one thing we partner with Courtney on. We are looking forward to hosting events for National Sexual Assault Awareness Month in person because the last few years we were not able to because of COVID.”
The two entities are working closely together to combat the rise in sexual and domestic violence cases during the COVID pandemic. Arthur stated that cases were on the rise the last two years when people were locked down due to the pandemic and the caseloads increased as courts were slowed by the pandemic as well.
Budgetary issues continue to be a problem for Rio Grande County Victim Advocacy and Tu Casa but the two organizations continue to strive for the best they can with the resources that are available. Some of the most common issues they face are safe and affordable housing and transportation for individuals needing to get to court dates or interviews. The two entities continue to try and raise awareness in hopes of finding more funding resources.
The proclamation passed by commissioners states, “April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month — a time to draw attention to the prevalence of sexual assault and educate individuals and communities about how to prevent it. Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are widespread problems. In the United States alone, nearly one in five women and one in 67 men have been raped at some time in their lives (Smith et al., 2017), and one in four girls and one in twenty boys is sexually abused by the age of 17 (Finkelhor et al., 2014).
"Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse can happen anywhere, including in online spaces. Now more than ever, screens and technology connect us with others — but for too long, harassment, cyberbullying, and sexual abuse have been seen as unavoidable behaviors online.
"Each of us has the power to change that. Together, we can make a difference to build inclusive, safe, and respectful communities that thrive online and offline.
"2022 marks the twenty-first anniversary of SAAM, and the theme of this year’s campaign is 'Building Safe Online Spaces Together.' We can build online communities free from sexual harassment, abuse, and assault by practicing digital consent, intervening when we see harmful behaviors, and promoting online communities that value inclusion, safety, and respect.”
For more information, visit www.slvtucasa.net.