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Dane County, Rape Crisis Center Mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month with New Education, Prevention Efforts Focused on Diversity

April 26, 2017
Josh Wescott 608-266-9069
County Executive

Hundreds of Helpline Calls Through Start of 2017 Highlight Need for Continued Public Awareness


Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Rape Crisis Center Director Erin Thornley Parisi held a press conference today highlighting new initiatives to increase access to sexual assault services for marginalized communities in Dane County. The announcement comes on Denim Day, an annual event during Sexual Assault Awareness Month that calls public attention to sexual assault by asking people to wear denim to help fight misconceptions and raise awareness about rape and other sex crimes.


Through March 2017 of this year, the Rape Crisis Center (RCC) has provided 153 medical or legal accompaniments to victims of sexual assault.  The RCC has also taken 702 helpline calls.


“Sexual assault is an insidious crime affecting thousands of people right here in Dane County,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “I am proud to stand with the Rape Crisis Center and our other community partners who work every day to make sure everyone in Dane County has access to sexual assault victim services.”


“The RCC has provided free medical and legal advocacy, counseling and support to tens of thousands of sexual assault victims over the past forty-four years, but the work has not been as inclusive as it needs to be. We are committed to changing that,” said Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Erin Thornley Parisi. “We’re analyzing what we do well and finding ways to do it better. We added two positions to focus our efforts. We’re contracting with experts in the community to help improve our cultural relevance and we are working to increase the capacity of culturally specific services.”


Denim Day has been observed for the last 18 years on a Wednesday in April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The day was triggered by a ruling in the Italian Supreme Court when a conviction for rape was overturned because the justices felt since the victim was wearing tight jeans she consented. The Italian Supreme Court stated in its decision “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.” The women in the Italian Parliament came to work in jeans the day after the ruling in solidarity with the victim. Wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against the misconceptions around sexual assault and the pervasive use of victim blaming.


“I’m delighted to have the on-going support of the County Executive and of all county employees who are wearing denim today to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault,” said Thornley Parisi. “Victim-blaming in 1992 resulted in the first Denim Day, but we battle the same tactics today in our local courts, schools, businesses and communities. The more marginalized the community, the more effective victim blaming is in silencing victims.” 


"On Denim Day and every day, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin stands with survivors of sexual assault,” Tanya Atkinson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin said.  “Through providing access to sex education that emphasizes the importance of consent and healthy relationships, advocating for stronger policies to support survivors of sexual assault and screening for intimate partner violence, Planned Parenthood is proud of our role contributing to a culture of personal safety, respect and consent.”


 According to the US Department of Justice 2015 National Crime Victimization Survey, every 98 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. One in two women and one in five men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime, and one in five women and one in thirty-three men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.


RCC services are free and provided to any victim of sexual assault and their support network regardless of age, gender identity, or other status. Community education and outreach is designed to increase community awareness of the Rape Crisis Center’s free services and to create partnerships and community ownerships of the underlying beliefs and attitudes that have normalized sexual assault. In 2016, RCC connected with over 6,800 teens and adults through community outreach and education, and taught assertiveness and self-defense risk-education to 295 students through the Chimera® program.


To access services you can call the 24/7 Helpline at 608-251-RAPE (7273).

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