By Kayla Anderson
In acknowledgement of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sparks nonprofit Safe Embrace recently hosted a Raise Your Voice event on Saturday, April 28, in the Outlets at Legends. From 5:30 to 7 p.m., people enjoyed live music by Nubbins, received information about how to help those in need, and participated in a candlelight vigil/minute of silence for sexual assault victims.
The event was held on the backside of Scheels during a time when younger teenagers were most likely to walk through the mall, the demographic most susceptible to sexual abuse. The band played for about an hour followed by short speeches from City and Safe Embrace representatives including Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen, Safe Embrace Executive Director John Etchemendy, and Sparks City Councilman Donald Abbott.
They all relayed the message that when you see something wrong or suspicious, speak up about it. While all law enforcement agencies work together to combat this problem, it’s up to our community to believe survivors and report suspicious behavior- and know that there is a safe haven in Sparks for those who desperately need to get out of a bad situation.
“This is an important issue because it affects both males and females. When it’s a sexual issue, I don’t think we talk about it openly enough because it’s an uncomfortable topic and because of that a lot of people are living in the shadows,” says Abbott. “One in four women in their lifetime will be victims of sexual assault and most of them will not be believed or will come forward. If they need a small helping hand, then that can make all the difference,” he adds.
About a hundred people attended the event, hopefully creating some awareness and action for those who need help. “I think this event made an impact and I’d like to see it grow. This is a good start, but I would love to get the message out to a larger audience,” Abbott says.
Safe Embrace was founded in 1994 to provide support for domestic violence victims in the community. In 1999, it began operating a 24-hour crisis hotline that currently receives about 2-8 calls per day. Over the last decade, Safe Embrace has provided emergency shelter to more than two thousand women and children. The nonprofit has also helped sexual abuse victims get back on their feet with education and employment opportunities.
To get involved with Safe Embrace, consider making a donation or attend a Volunteer Informational meeting and learn about available positions (the next one will be held on May 17 at 5:15 p.m. at its administration office on 780 East Lincoln Way). For more information about Safe Embrace, visit http://www.safeembrace.org.