Organizations in Cape Town, islands launch sexual assault awareness campaign

As National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month draw to a close, the campaign to raise awareness and community conversation about these issues must continue.

The statistics on child abuse are staggering. One in four girls – and one in six boys – will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Most victims suffer in silence. It is estimated that over 90% of victims of abuse never report what happened to them. What is even more alarming is that over 90% of abusers are someone the abused child knows and trusts: a coach, camp counsellor, teacher, community member denomination or a member of his family. This is a public health crisis that requires a large-scale community response.

The cases of sexual assault are equally disturbing. One in six women and one in 26 men will experience sexual assault as adults. Young men in college are at five times the risk of sexual assault than the national average.

Barnstable County Children’s Cove, Independence House, a Safe Place Nantucket and Community Services CONNECT to End Violence on Martha’s Vineyard have partnered for a joint public awareness campaign called “It’s Time to Have the Conversation”. With this collaborative campaign, a first in the history of our organizations, we have come together to bring the issues of exploitation, assault and abuse of adults and children to the forefront of our community conversations. We have created an eye-catching poster with images of Cape Town and the islands, a QR code and a website address to attract public attention and learn more about the services provided by our agencies. The website includes direct access to hotlines to help victims of abuse access support services.

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We partner with regional chambers of commerce to encourage local businesses to display our posters in bathrooms and other common areas where victims of abuse can see them and learn more about the help available to them. We are also collaborating with these organizations on a social media campaign to increase regional impact.

Our messages of support and awareness are often missing from the places where people gather. We bring our message to the places where people work, shop and eat. For too long, sexual and domestic violence has been a taboo subject hidden in the shadows, increasing the likelihood of victimization and minimizing a person’s chance of receiving help.

Sexual assault, domestic violence, child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation happen here. This happens in every town on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. It affects people of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds and socio-economic status.

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It’s time to have the conversation. It’s time to discuss these issues so that together we can create communities where everyone lives free from abuse, has a voice that is heard, and can lead healthy, safe, and empowered lives. And we need your help to do that.

For more information, go to or contact us to join this awareness effort.

Jacob Stapledon is the Community Engagement and Education Program Manager at Children’s Cove

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Opinion: Groups in Cape Town, islands launch sexual assault awareness campaign

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