One Thousand Shoes from Sexual Assault Survivors Displayed in Florida Capitol for Sexual Assault Awareness Month
An emotional and eye-opening display featuring about 1,000 shoes worn, decorated and submitted by sexual assault survivors of all ages from across the state of Florida– with accompanying stories – decorated the Capitol rotunda April 19-21 to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The display, hosted by Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) asked others to “Walk in My Shoes” – the shoes of someone who has been impacted by sexual violence.
“Our smallest shoe was submitted by the mother of an infant, and the largest shoe was sent in by a 50 year old man. We’ve got shoes and stories from young children, grandparents, and people from all walks of life in between,” said Senator Lauren Book (D – Plantation), one of the supporters of the display. “We’ve even got shoes submitted by family members of survivors who ended their lives due to drugs, eating disorders or suicide, unable to overcome the trauma of their assault. It doesn’t have to be that way. With education and awareness, we can prevent 95 percent of sexual abuse – and with guidance and support, we can help survivors heal.”
Someone becomes a victim of sexual assault every 98 seconds in the United States. Last year, more than 10,000 victims reported sexual assault to service providers in Florida, with most choosing not to report their abuse to law enforcement. Experts say this is due to shame, guilt, embarrassment, and the fact that 90 percent of victims know their assailant.
“I was inspired by the sexual assault program in my district in Broward County, the Nancy J. Cotterman Center, which is an amazing and essential resource for our community,” said Representative Kristin Jacobs (D – Coconut Creek), an involved supporter. “I wanted to open people’s eyes to the fact that sexual violence happens much more frequently than any of us care to recognize – and that it happens to men, women and children in all kinds of communities, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status. We need to educate, and to help shatter the stigma surrounding sexual assault so that victims can be connected with services and help become thriving survivors.”
Fifteen child victims, who now consider themselves to be survivors and advocates for change, were also in attendance to ‘unveil’ the display in the Capitol rotunda and speak with legislators, as were members from the organization Bikers Against Child Abuse Florida (BACA) – who rode to the Capitol from across Florida to attend.
Seventy-five percent of child sexual abuse victims do not speak up for at least a year; 45 percent keep it a secret for five years, and many never disclose.
If left unresolved, survivors of sexual abuse face lifelong consequences, including mental health issues, substance abuse, PTSD, lost wages and more. It has been estimated that rape costs victims an average of $122,000.
“It’s important for everyone to be aware that services are available,” said Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. “If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or abused, help is available today, whether the violation happened yesterday or forty years ago. Florida’s certified sexual assault programs offer trauma-informed counseling, therapy, advocacy, and crisis-intervention services for anyone recently assaulted, or suffering silently from the effects of child sexual abuse. Pick up the phone. Call your local program. Services are available, right now, for you or your loved ones.”
New Sexual Violence Benchbook Available June
The Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA), Office of Court Improvement (OCI), in collaboration with the Sexual Violence Benchbook Advisory Committee and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV), developed Florida’s Sexual Violence Benchbook to update the 2011 Sexual Violence Benchbook and address the important and unique issues present in sexual violence cases. The 2017 Benchbook will be available in hard copy and PDF format within the month of June. Follow FCASV on Facebook and Twitter to be updated when the Benchbook is available!
Center Highlight: Gulf Coast Sexual Assault Program
The Gulf Coast Sexual Assault Program began operation in July 2015, based in Panama City, but responsible for the six counties of Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Washington, and Holmes Counties. Starting with two victim advocates, the program faced many challenges including providing accessible services to some of the most rural areas in the State. Additionally, the number of incarcerated individuals housed in these six counties are nearly equivalent to the total number of incarcerated individuals residing in the entire state of Washington. More than half a dozen medium to maximum security facilities are operated within our communities. Immediately, our agency began discussions with the Florida Department of Corrections to partner to provide services to these thousands of individuals. Unfortunately, our program's funding was limited and restrictive to provision of services to the incarcerated population. The need was recognized as critical, as many within our agency had heard testimonials that spoke to the trauma experienced by many within local prisons due to sexual violence. After a year and a half, our agency entered into an agreement with DOC to fund a full-time Victim Advocate, specialized in PREA and serving incarcerated individuals. These services include a separate 24-hour helpline, individual advocacy, crisis intervention, accompaniment to forensic medical examinations, facilitated support groups, and after care post-release. The program is still in its infancy, but already the facilities have been receptive and encouraging of these critical supports and their availability to those housed within their walls. As we have committed to care for all, we echo the words of Tonier Cain, "Where there is breath, there is hope."
Statewide SART Advisory Committee 2016-2017 Recommendations to be Released in June
The 2016-17 session of the Statewide SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) Advisory Committee is a statewide group coordinated by FCASV and comprised of representatives from a broad range of disciplines whose work brings them into contact with rape survivors. This year’s members include sexual assault program advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, sexual assault nurse examiners, civil attorneys, judges, survivors, and campus officials. This year’s Advisory Committee worked together to formulate a report on the systemic response to rape survivors, from the criminal justice system to on-campus. The Committee’s report will be released in June and available at fcasv.org. We encourage policy makers and community leaders to consider the Committee’s report in order to provide victims of sexual violence the response they deserve and the services they need to overcome the trauma of rape.
Get to Know FCASV
Staff Attorney Valentina Villalobos, Esq.
Valentina comes to FCASV from the Guardian ad Litem office where she spent the past four and a half years as an attorney representing the best interest of children in the dependency system (children who had been removed from their parents by the state). There she worked with volunteers and staff advocates, frequently going to court and litigating their children’s needs, and taking cases to trial. Prior to that she interned at Gulfcoast Legal Services, helping undocumented victims of abuse apply for legal status through various forms of relief. She also participated in legal clinics while at Florida State University College of Law at the Public Interest Law Center, working with children on a variety of legal needs as well as working on post-conviction relief for children who had been sentenced as adults and received long-term prison sentences.
Valentina is excited to join FCASV, as she has always been interested in working for a non-profit, and has focused her career on public interest matters. She will be part of the Legal Assistance to Victims (LAV) project, working with victims of sexual assault to help them with their civil legal needs.
Valentina enjoys being in Tampa, where she is not too far from where she grew up and is able to spend time with her family and much younger siblings. During her spare time, Valentina enjoys being outdoors biking, kayaking, and working in her tropical fruit garden. She is not so much enjoying planning a wedding!
Upcoming Events and Trainings
Advanced SANE One-Day Training
For more information about the training, visit fcasv.org.
National Sexual Assault Conference
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault will be hosting the 2017 National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Texas for the first time. Visit taasaconference.org for more information about the conference.
Clinical Skills and Validation Trainings
June 8 & 9
For more information about the training, visit fcasv.org.
*For Florida's certified rape crisis centers: Check with your FCASV Contract Manager for approved trainings if you want to use contract funds to attend trainings, conferences, etc.
This project was supported by a grant awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.