by April Scheinoha
Sexual harassment, abuse and assault happen in all communities. To bring awareness to the issue, Mayor Brian Holmer signed a proclamation declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the city. The proclamation was signed Tuesday, April 20 at the Thief River Falls City Council meeting.
The proclamation referred to the need to draw attention to and educate people on the prevalence and prevention of sexual assault. The proclamation called upon residents to “participate in activities to create online spaces that are built on foundational values of practicing consent, keeping kids safe and supporting survivors.”
After Holmer signed the proclamation, Amy Beckius-Johnson spoke to the council about sexual violence and the types of services offered by the Violence Intervention Project in Thief River Falls. Beckius-Johnson serves as a co-executive director of VIP.
VIP provides support to people affected by sexual violence whether it occurred half an hour ago or 70 years ago, Beckius-Johnson said.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month is also observed in April. Way too many children are being sexually abused in VIP’s five-county service area, Beckius-Johnson said.
“This isn’t any one person’s issue,” said Beckius-Johnson. “It is our community’s issue.”
Beckius-Johnson cautioned the public that children may be groomed while playing games online. There are chat and direct message functions that enable someone to communicate with a child to groom the child for sexual abuse. Pictures may also be sent. Sometimes, these sexual predators prey upon children who may not have an adult in whom they can confide. Everyone plays a role in preventing child sexual abuse, she said.
Some people may be ashamed about seeking support. VIP tries to provide support without focusing too much attention on what happened.
Besides support provided to those affected by sexual violence, VIP also provides support to people affected by partner violence, domestic violence and family violence in Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake and Roseau counties. The organization provides education and outreach services as well.
VIP has a 24-hour crisis line available at 1-800-660-6667. It can also be reached at 681-5557.