The Ottumwa Courier

April 3, 2013

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month


OTTUMWA — Let’s be honest, “it” is not an easy subject to talk about. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about sex. But let’s take a moment and get past the blushing, because this conversation is so important.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this April, communities across the country are proclaiming “it’s time … to talk about it!” This year’s campaign focuses on healthy sexuality and its connection to child sexual abuse prevention.

By talking about “it,” we are making the connection that promoting healthy behaviors encourages relationships that are consensual, respectful and informed. That is what healthy sexuality is about. Healthy sexuality is having the knowledge and power to express sexuality in ways that enrich our lives. Healthy sexuality is free from coercion and violence.

It is important to understand that sexuality is much more than sex. Healthy sexuality is emotional, social, cultural and physical. It is our values, attitudes, feelings, interactions and behaviors. It changes with time and experience.

All of us have a role in building safe, healthy relationships and communities. When we start the conversation about healthy sexuality, we raise awareness. Prevent sexual violence by talking about “it.” It’s time … to talk about it.

I am the SART coordinator at the Crisis Center & Women’s Shelter in Ottumwa. SART is a Sexual Assault Response Team. The team is a multidisciplinary team consisting of medical, legal, law enforcement and advocacy developed to improve the services for victims of sexual assault. Currently, the SART team in Wapello County and the members are Lily Romero, Crisis Center & Women’s Shelter; Gary Oldenburger and Charlotte Kovacs, Wapello County Attorney’s Office; Steve Harris and Aaron Vose, Ottumwa Police Department; Jeff Layton, Wapello County Sheriff’s Office; Wanda Besco, Family Planning; and myself. There are other outside professionals welcome at meetings such as guidance counselors, aging agencies, case managers, medical personnel, etc.

The development of a SART team is a long process, but once members are on the same page, survivors of sexual assault get a community-coordinated response. The four entities work together to make the victims’ recovery a better process.

Currently there are five SART coordinators in the state of Iowa. Each county is different and brings new challenges and opportunities.

Jennifer Swim