Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 14, 2023

Proclamation seeks to raise sexual assault awareness

Partnership CEO Kevin Hyde, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, special adviser David Roddy of the Hamilton County Mayor’s Office and Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Kristen Pavlik McCallie recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 6 at the Courts Building. - Photograph provided

Someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. A child is assaulted every nine minutes.

In 2020 in Tennessee, victims reported more than 5,000 instances of sexual assault to law enforcement agencies, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

And since January 2022, Chattanooga law enforcement has received nearly 200 reports of rape in the city, according to the ChattaData website.

Despite the staggering number of reported incidents, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network website estimates victims report only one out of every three sexual assaults to police.

To encourage the public to engage in awareness and prevention efforts, officials from Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga, as well as staff from the Children’s Advocacy Center and Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, presented a mayoral proclamation recognizing April 2023 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 6 at the Courts Building.

The ceremony honored victims and survivors of sexual assault and raised awareness of local resources available to those affected.

It also recognized the community partners that support survivors and pursue justice, including local law enforcement and other nonprofit organizations.

For example, Partnership supports victims 13 years of age and older through its sexual assault and domestic violence crisis hotline and the area’s only rape crisis center

The staff at Partnership provides trauma-informed support services such as forensic medical exams, court advocacy, assistance with orders of protection, trauma-informed counseling and more.

In 2022, Partnership’s crisis advocates received and responded to 2,229 hotline calls and its rape crisis center served hundreds of survivors, including 124 who safely received a forensic medical exam performed by sexual assault nurse examiners.

According to Partnership CEO Kevin Hyde, who spoke during the ceremony, the agency saw a 48% increase in calls and a 24% bump in exams last year.

Hyde said Partnership’s staff “recognizes and values each survivor who walks in for support, believes in their experiences and works to address their needs so they can regain a sense of control, safety and healing.”

Younger survivors in Hamilton County can turn to the Children’s Advocacy Center, which administers essential services – including forensic interviews, medical examinations, therapy and family advocacy – to abused children within a single comprehensive facility.

Last year, the CAC served nearly 900 affected children and their non-offending caregivers. It was the agency’s highest year of service yet, noted Hyde.

“Our service numbers are revealing, but I want you to think beyond them,” invited Hyde. “Each of these numbers represents a person – a co-worker, a neighbor, a loved one, an innocent child – who bravely came to our facilities, during one of the most vulnerable seasons in their lives, in need of personal care and support.”

Community awareness and collaboration are essential in stopping the spread of sexual assault in Chattanooga and Hamilton County, continued Hyde.

“It’s clear, sexual assault is an experience shared by too many, and it leaves profound and long-lasting effects. After such a trauma, survivors need – and deserve – support.”

Hyde then outlined ways in which every member of the community can help.

“We can use and recognize clear, explicit and comfortable consent.

“We can recognize the signs of sexual assault. Physical injuries or bruises, emotional distress, changes in behavior, isolation or avoidance and substance abuse can be telling signs after an assault on those we know.

“We can share resources and work across sectors, from law enforcement to victim advocates, to protect and empower those with a survivor-centered process.

“And we can believe. The key to seeing change in our community starts with believing survivors. Less than 3% of child sexual abuse cases and only two to 10% of sexual assault reports are ever false or fabricated.

“It’s our duty to believe survivors. By believing, we break the cycle of stigma and silence, validate survivor experiences, hold perpetrators accountable and – most importantly – promote healing.”

Source: Partnership for Families, Children and Adults