Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) was established in 2001, after years of holding events only for one week. The purpose of SAAM is to raise awareness of sexual assault and advocate for victims.
Lewis County victims advocate Marsha Boyles works with all victims of crime, including sexual assault victims. She, along with Prosecuting Attorney Christina Flanagan, attended a conference on sexual assault last week, which focused on sexual assault kit initiative.
What this initiative involves is testing and recording all DNA kits in the state. According to Boyles, all kits will be done by the end of June. This initiative works with representatives from various disciplines, including health care practitioners, victim advocates, police, and survivors, among others.
Boyles has been a victims advocate in Lewis County since 2001. She works with victims of any age and any crime. Boyles described her work as helping to pick up the pieces of lives after a tragedy has occurred. In Lewis County for 2016, 117 out of 245 referrals were domestic cases, including sexual assault.
“I’m here for a reason,” she said. “Who else would they talk to?”
Boyles said there is still a lot of under reporting of sexual assault cases, however. She feels that most victims are aware of the stigma attached to sexual assault, and that law enforcement needs more training on sexual assault.
Boyles said it is also common for victims not to disclose everything as soon as the crime has happened. This is where, she said, law enforcement training would be valuable.
April 2-9 is also National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which was established during the Reagan administration. This week is used to promote and bring awareness to victims’ rights and needs. Boyles said her office provides a safe place for victims, where they can can treat it like a home. “I like that,” Boyles said. Some victims she has been in contact for years, mostly domestic abuse victims. “They need to know I’ll always be here,” she said.
If you (or someone you know) are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, contact law enforcement. Boyles will be notified, and will attend to victims’ needs. If you or someone you know needs help, you can also contact the local HOPE, Inc.
office at 304-269-8233.