YWCA encourages victims of sexual abuse to speak up

YWCA encourages victims of sexual abuse to speak up

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Sexual allegation cases have been taking over national headlines in the past few weeks.

The YWCA commends those who have come forward to share their story, and encourages victims who have remained silent to do the same.

"We find every victim's voice important, it doesn't matter if they're rich or famous. No one should be the victim of any kind of sexual violence," said Deborah Stoll, director of the Hope Center at YWCA.

Stoll has worked at the YWCA for ten years, and estimates she has seen 1,200 individuals use their services in that time.

Those numbers are usually highest during warm months and slower in winter months, but Stoll says 2017 proved otherwise.

"We were exceptionally busy in October and November. Our numbers have been higher than expected. We really can't say what causes this. However, we have had a vigorous ad campaign, the "No More" campaign, where we talked about ending domestic violence and sexual assault," Stoll said.

The YWCA's mission is 'eliminating racism and empowering women', a mission they have been following for more than 125 years.

They realized that one of the obstacles in reporting sexual abuse is the myth that people will think victims are making it up.

"We hear, 'She regretted having sex so she called it rape', or, 'She doesn't want people to find out about it,' or, 'She wants to get the man in trouble.' But statistically, victims do not lie about rape," Stoll said.

Stoll says proving or disproving sexual harassment allegations is the work of the police. The YWCA simply advocates for these cases to give victims a voice and eventually give them peace.

So what is sexual harassment?

According to Stoll, sexual harassment is generally verbal, or may be an atmosphere that makes someone uncomfortable. This could be in the form of off-colored remarks, or jokes.

Sexual assault is generally physical, such as touching or grabbing someone.

A misconception the YWCA would like people to understand is that women can be the perpetrators and men the victims. However, the YWCA more typically sees situations that are the other way around.

Stoll said she thinks the "#MeToo" social media campaign, started by Tarana Burke and made famous by Alyssa Milano after the Harvey Weinstein allegations came to light, has helped encourage victims of sexual violence to come forward.

"I do think the "#MeToo" campaign has played a role. I think it has encouraged some people to find a voice and come forward, or at least seek help to call and talk with us, even if they can't go public with their complaint," said Stoll. "I know it says Y-'W'-C-A, but we serve all victims."

YWCA offers help and hope to victims 24 hours a day.

Victims of abuse can call 866-557-7273 for help from trained advocates, staff members and volunteers.

The YWCA recently added three more volunteers to their roster following a 40-hour training session, and says it is more important than ever to utilize their hotline.

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