Experts say all survivors respond to sexual assault differently, but there are many resources available to them in Western New York.
Restore: Sexual Assault Services is a rape crisis program that operates out of five local counties. It offers 24/7 support to survivors of sexual assault.
In light of the arrest of former Boy Scouts troop leader Ronald Rowcliffe, who is accused of having sexual relations with scouts, advocates discussed resources available, and how to best keep your children safe when they're not in sight.
Lauren Berger works for the organization. She says more often than not, victims know the perpetrator in cases of sexual assault.
“Whether it’s an acquaintance, a member of their family, a friend of a friend, and in cases where the survivor is a child that happens even more so,” she said.
Berger says this sometimes makes predators hard to spot and the assaults even harder to talk about.
Tips for Talking Abuse:
- Establish an Open Line of Communication
- Discuss Boundaries With Your Child
- Let Them Know It's Okay to Say 'No'
“The use of the bathing suit zone is a useful discussion tool because it gives kids an awareness of the parts of their body that are private, that people aren’t supposed to be touching,” Berger said.
And let them know it’s always okay to tell an adult 'no.'
“When we say to the child that they have the right to their own body, we’re not going to make them kiss you know this one aunt they don’t necessarily want to," Berger said. "When we model this fact that people who care about you respect your boundaries, than again they’ll know where the line is, and be able to listen to their own feelings when they feel someone crossing that line.”
If you suspect your child may have been assaulted, it’s important to have honest dialogue then too.
“Say, 'I’m noticing something going on. You know you can talk to me, I’m here for you,'" Berger said. "And just leaving that door open, and not pressuring or asking leading questions, but just providing a space that is emotionally safe and supportive.”
She says there are a plethora of resources available to victims and their families like Restore’s 24/7 hotline and Bivona Child Advocacy Center. The two organizations work closely together and offer help with reporting incidents, training, counseling, and crisis support.
You can call Restore's 24/7 hotline at (585) 546-2777 for Monroe County or 1-800-527-1757 for Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming Counties.