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Commentary: Survivor’s path to healing is unique

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s important to define the term sexual violence and identify the impact of sexual violence on individuals, families, and communities.

Sexual violence occurs when someone forces, manipulates or coerces another person to do any unwanted sexual activity. This crime affects one in six women in Oregon, and the impact of such trauma exposure is vast. Every survivor’s path to healing is unique, there is no “wrong response” to abuse. Some responses to surviving sexual violence include: nightmares, flashbacks, depression, difficulty concentrating, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and phobias, eating disorders, substance use and abuse, low self-esteem, guilt, embarrassment, self-blame, anger, sadness, fear, distrust and vulnerability.

Every year for the month of April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center encourages different key messages about sexual violence awareness. The 2014 campaign focuses on healthy relationships and young people. This year HAVEN hopes you will join us in opportunities to raise awareness about sexual violence prevention and promoting healthy relationships for our youth.

Every member of a community plays a role in raising awareness and preventing sexual violence and abuse. During April, please wear the color teal, the color symbolizing sexual violence prevention and awareness. You may notice community members and service providers wearing teal ribbons as well, demonstrating their support.

On April 22, HAVEN took its first 10,000 Steps Towards Healing, a walk through downtown The Dalles to recognize partnering agencies’ support for sexual violence survivors. This walk also demonstrated our community’s support for survivors of sexual violence in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

If you would like more information, please call HAVEN at 541-296-1662. If you have questions about sexual assault advocacy and support, contact Gwen at 541-296-1662 or email gwen@HAVENthedalles.org. We all play a role in preventing and responding to sexual violence in our community. Thank you to everyone who joined us on April 22 for 10,000 Steps Towards Healing.

Gwen Paulson holds a masters of social work and works for HAVEN as a sexual assault counselor.

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