Two types of awareness were proclaimed for April during the meeting of the Wayne County Commissioners Thursday.

 - Two types of awareness were proclaimed for April during the meeting of the Wayne County Commissioners Thursday.

April was named Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Representatives from the Victims' Intervention Program (VIP) and Children and Youth Services (CYS) were present for each.

Sexual assault

VIP Executive Director Michele Minor Wolfe said they have helped 865 people overall in 2013. Of those, she said 122 were identified as victims of sexual assault, with 88 adults and 34 children.

“We have found that over the last six years we have served an additional 293,” she said.

Commissioner Wendall Kay asked the reason for that, whether there was a greater increase of incidents or if it could be due to educational awareness.

“We don't have the data to know for sure,” Minor Wolfe stated. “I do believe there is better awareness though. I think that's a big part of it.”

Chairman Brian Smith asked how VIP is doing in terms of volunteers.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” she said. “We really need hotline volunteers.”

She said hotline volunteers don't need to be in the VIP building to help out, as long as they have a private area in their home.

“We use a pager system to get the information out,” Minor Wolfe stated.

Anyone wishing to help with the hotline can call (570) 253-4401.

The facts

According to the proclamation one in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault before age 18.

• Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment show statistics where one in five women and one in 71 men have been victims at some point in their lives.

• Staff at VIP encourage every person to speak out when witnessing acts of violence however small.

• With leadership, dedication and encouragement there is compelling evidence we can be successful in reducing sexual violence in Wayne County through prevention education, increased awareness and holding perpetrators who commit acts of violence responsible for their actions.

Why the behavior

“What do you find are contributing factors that drives this kind of behavior?” asked Commissioner Jonathan Fritz.

“There are so many different aspects,” said Minor Wolfe. “I think the media such as music and movies contribute to it and they target teenage boys.

“They see that and think it's normal because they grew up with it. What is now considered PG would have been R awhile ago.”

She added there's a lot people are introduced to that can contribute to those behaviors.

Upcoming programs

VIP will be hosting the 22nd Take Back the Night on April 30 at 5:30 p.m. at The Cooperage on Main Street, Honesdale.

“I encourage everyone to attend Take Back the Night,” said Kay. “It's important that we show support to those who will be sharing their story to educate us.

“It's very worthwhile to go.”

He added if anyone knows of a sexual abuse issue, they should contact VIP, CYS or the authorities.

“I appreciate everything you do at VIP and I'm glad to see you continuing in your role.”

Smith stated the work VIP does for people is so important and meaningful.

“We appreciate what you do,” he said.”

“The support system you have implemented is critical,” added Fritz. “Your dedication to this important cause is very noble.”

• The documentary “Chosen” will be shown on Wednesday, April 9 from 7-9 p.m. at the YMCA, 105 Park Street, Honesdale.

It is hosted by the Collaborative Action on Slavery and Sex Trafficking (CASST). There will be a discussion after the documentary.

Child abuse

Natalie Burns spoke on behalf of CYS.

“A lot is happening in Pennsylvania in terms of child abuse prevention,” she said. “Governor Tom Corbett has signed at least 11 new child abuse laws, which will all be put into place within the year.”

She added Pennsylvania has the most archaic laws in place and the state is working to be up to date like other states.

“The laws are going to affect what we do,” Burns stated. “I'm hoping by next fall we'll be able to start training [to abide by those laws].”

Growing numbers

Burns said she anticipates that by 2015, CYS may be seeing double the reports of abuse and that the cases will be more substantial.

“We've seen a huge rise in drugs in the county,” she said. “We expect to see more of those types of cases.”

Burns added those can involve parents giving children drugs.

The proclamation states in 2013, 26 children were found to be abused in Wayne County.

Child abuse “attacks the physical, mental and emotional safety” of those most valuable and vulnerable in our nation.

It adds Pennsylvania realized the need for additional legislation in order to “better protect our children and prosecute offenders” and that it's not just a legislative issue, but also a community responsibility.

Shared gratitude

“I'd like to express my admirable appreciation for the job you do,” stated Smith. “It's ugly to think of some of the situations these children are in. You care so much about them and you do this day in and day out. I don't know how you do it, but you do a great job.”

Fritz said this is an issue many would rather pretend didn't exist.

“We need to accept it does happen,” he said. “I'm thankful for what you do day in and day out.”

Reporting abuse

Burns said to report abuse, call the state hotline in Harrisburg. That information is then forwarded to CYS for cases in Wayne County.

That number is 1-800-932-0313.

She said once CYS is informed, they have to see all of the children in a household within 24 hours. She added if they are concerned about safety, they will go immediately.

“One of the things I'm very proud of with our department is the staff looks at the human being,” Burns stated. “We try to figure out how we can help them out. It's not a 'you're a horrible person' kind of situation.

“As professionals we can make a small difference in their lives.”