ROCKINGHAM — Staff from one local nonprofit spent their lunch break Tuesday to bring attention to sexual assault in Richmond County and around the country.
New Horizons Life and Family services again led a march through the streets of downtown Rockingham in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Before leaving Harrington Square, Direct Service Coordinator Teshika Wall told the crowd that sexual violence “affects every community” and people regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation.
“Every 68 seconds in America, someone is sexually assaulted,” Wall said. “In 2023, this is unacceptable.”
That frequency is higher than the every 92 seconds listed by the N.C. Attorney General’s office.
The goal of New Horizons, Wall continued, is to educate the community about sexual assault, as well as provide support to victims.
“We want to get the community thinking about how they can use their voices to break the stigma surrounding sexual assault and be more observant for both their safety and the safety of others,” she said.
Wall said that blame has to be shifted from the victim — including for their clothing choices and failure to fight back or report the assault to law enforcement — to the perpetrator.
“Sexual assault is never a victim’s fault, but is motivated by a need to control, humiliate and harm,” Wall said. “We can be the voice for those who cannot speak.”
New Horizons was joined on the march by deputies and other employees with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, staff from Thomas Realty and United Way of Richmond County.
Statistics from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence show that 80% of rape victims know their attacker, and that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18.
Richmond County Jail records show 11 defendants currently being held on related charges ranging from taking indecent liberties with a child to second-degree forcible rape. Many of those defendants are accused of sexually abusing children.
An investigative series by Carolina Public Press and other media partners found that fewer than one in four defendants in the state are convicted in sexual assault cases.
All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Anyone with questions or seeking services concerning sexual violence can contact New Horizons at 910-997-4448, visit newhorizonsagency.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Crisis Line at 910-997-4840.
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