Local response to #MeToo Campaign helps victims of sexual assault

Local response to #MeToo Campaign helps victims of sexual assault

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - With new accusations of sexual misconduct coming out almost daily, it has several talking about the issue.

Whether they use the hash tag "me too" or they just Google information, local advocates say it's making a difference.

What started as a hash tag has become a social movement.

"When people see other people coming forward and being strong and fighting that stigma they think you know, me too right," said Keri Black, program manager at the YWCA's Hope Center. "I can come forward and it helps too, it's validating for victims."

The social movement has spread quickly across the county, even right here locally. The YWCA Hope Rape Crisis Center of Northwest Ohio said often victims don't report their sexual assault because of self-blame and shame. They also said it's common for some survivors to tell their story years after the fact, but say support is paramount throughout their life.

Since the scandals in Hollywood and the #MeToo movement, local advocates said it's hard to tell if more victims are speaking out, but they said they have seen an increase in volunteers wanting to help fight sexual abuse.

"We need people that are meeting these people at their lowest point in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault answering the phone or meeting them in person and just saying, I'm here," explained Black. "I believe you, what happened was not your fault and I am here to help."

They host two training sessions a year that lasts six weeks each. Victim advocates who finish the program can help with the 24-hour crisis hotline (419-241-7273) or with being a supportive face in the hospital.

Every session the volunteers focus on a new topic regarding victim advocacy like criminal prosecution or sexual assault nurse examiners and more.

"There's no part of me that is willing to just do nothing when I can see it so blatantly and so obviously even though this is not my field of study," said Gabrielle Hymel, volunteer in her fourth week of training to become a victim advocate.

Advocates said work places and community members are learning more about sexual assault and how to handle it, but we still have a long way to go in our society.

Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a victim advocate or just learning about the Hope Center, call Keri Black at 419-241-3235 extension 138 or email at kblack@ywcanwo.org.

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