Wednesday, 04 April 2018 05:05

Speaking Out Against Sexual Assault: SART to Hold Local March and Rally

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Sexual Assault Response Team Sexual Assault Response Team Image courtesy of SART

ROCKINGHAM - April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), SAAM is celebrating its 17th anniversary with the theme “Embrace Your Voice” to inform individuals how they can use their words to promote safety, respect, and equality to stop sexual violence before it happens.

In Richmond County, the nonprofit Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) will hold its annual awareness event on Saturday, April 28 from 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. This year the event will begin with a march from the courthouse to Cole Plaza, where a rally will ensue, including a survivor’s story and other speakers.

Linda Tillman, chairperson of SART, stated, “We expect a big crowd this year because of the ‘Me Too’ movement that has been in the forefront of the news media. We wanted to do something bigger this year.” She added, “We’re hoping that the march is going to bring out a lot more people.”

Tillman explains, “SART is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between various agencies that work with survivors of all types of sexual assault and is built on a team response.”

“The aftermath of assault is difficult and different for each victim,” Tillman stated. “SART provides support and advocacy to those victims and their families.” Tillman said that SART also “works hard to increase awareness, strengthen relationships among victims and establish funding for victim-centered programs.”

Tillman stated that New Horizons: Life and Family Services, a domestic violence service providing help for people dealing with domestic abuse and sexual assault, is usually the first emergency contact and provides most of the support. SART and New Horizons also work closely with other agencies to provide as much assistance as possible for victims.

Tillman said that the local march is for Richmond County but SART exists throughout North Carolina. Tillman stated, “I think there’s a huge need for it in every county. Sexual abuse is so underreported because most victims are so ashamed of what has happened to them that the majority of them never report it at all.” She added, “Many years later, when it still haunts them, victims come to seek organizations like New Horizons.”

Kelly Cunningham, DV/SA Advocate at New Horizons agrees, stating that sexual abuse is something that many people don’t talk about. She said, “As a community, we collaborate with the hospital and SART to make sure we meet the needs of those who are hidden behind the silence.”

Cunningham stated, “Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted; every 8 minutes the victim is a child; 1 out of every 6 American women and 1 out of every 33 American men have been a victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.”

Cunningham further said, “We are having the march to bring the community together, to let the victims know that we’re here and that their voices matter. As long as we’re bringing awareness to the topic it’s putting it out there in the minds of people. The purpose of the rally is not to just speak to the victims, but to speak to the communities in which these victims are members.”

“Local businesses and individuals have donated money for us to purchase t-shirts,” said Tillman. A few of the sponsors that have already signed on include Dr. Al Covington, Representative Ken Goodman and Commissioner Gardner; FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital-Richmond is donating water.”

Tillman stated, “We collaborate with any agencies that work with sexual assault victims but those that have been an active part of our agency have been the police and sheriff’s departments, Department of Social Services, Mental Health, Richmond Community College, FirstHealth, New Horizons and The District Attorney’s Office."


For additional information about the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault visit (NCCASA)

For additional info about NSVRC, visit

Visit New Horizons at:  New Horizons Life and Family Services                                                      

New Horizons Hotline: 910-997-4840, office: 910-997-4448

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 April 2018 00:42