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SARA reaches 42nd year of sexual assault prevention

Organization serves roughly 1,100 students each year

<p>SARA serves roughly 1,100 students each year.&nbsp;</p>

SARA serves roughly 1,100 students each year. 

The Sexual Assault Resource Agency has been working in Charlottesville for over 40 years to provide support to victims of sexual assault and eliminate sexual violence altogether.

The agency works with about 550 local residents and about 1,100 students each year through victim support services and community outreach programs.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network — the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization — sexual violence on college campuses is more prevalent than other crimes. The RAINN website states that 18 to 24 year old females have a higher risk of becoming victims of sexual violence, and that 11.2 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students “experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

The mission of SARA is to “eliminate sexual violence and its impact by providing education, advocacy and support to women, men and children.” The organization is accredited through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and offers free support services to victims of sexual violence.

SARA Executive Director Becky Weybright said in an email to the organization uses strategies such as prevention education, support services, community outreach and advocacy to combat sexual assault.

“We provide a 24-hour hotline, 24-hour availability for hospital accompaniment at the emergency department, advocacy, support and education for survivors, primary prevention education in area schools, outreach to the community and training to allied professionals,” Weybright said.

Weybright said the 24-hour crisis hotline is available to anyone who has questions or concerns relating to sexual violence.

“The hotline may be someone’s first reach out to us as they seek more information about our services,” Weybright said. “It may be from a survivor who is looking for coping skills after an assault. It may be from someone who is seeking legal information or other advocacy.”

SARA also offers trauma-informed therapy, legal system advocacy, a therapeutic horse and farm camp for girls and sponsors several prevention programs in schools.

Weybright said SARA began as a grassroots effort in 1974 after people became concerned about sexual assault in the community. The agency was later incorporated as a non-profit in 1979.

“Our initial services started with responding to survivor needs,” Weybright said. “As the agency has grown, we have added outreach activities, advocacy services, therapy and primary prevention education.”

Local residents can aid in the effort to eliminate sexual violence by talking about the issue and making it a priority, Weybright said.

“We should promote social norms that protect against violence,” Weybright said. “We should talk about consent and teach healthy dating. We should intervene if we see inappropriate behavior. We should all learn ways to support survivors.”

SARA Lead Prevention Educator Laurie Seaman said in an email statement the organization needs everyone to play a role to help prevent sexual assault in the Charlottesville community.

“Only about seven percent of our community are committing these crimes,” Seaman said. “That means the rest of us are a huge majority. If we all took small actions in our daily lives to show that we will not accept acts of violence in our spheres of influence, we could see the numbers of sexual assaults drop.”

Seaman also noted the community’s power to create healthy norms.

“I believe the solution to sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sex trafficking and all related abuses lies in the community’s power to create healthy norms,” Seaman said. “To choose to take care of each other instead of turning a blind eye.”