Protecting Our Families from Sexual Abuse Starts with Awareness, Then Action
As a former police detective, I’ve seen firsthand how the lives of innocent people have been devastated by sexual assault. It is something that a person doesn’t easily forget. But I’ve also seen how people representing various organizations come together in a crisis to compassionately help victims in their time of need.
One such organization is the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk (VIBS) – established in 1976 and a pioneer in the domestic violence and rape crisis movements. The mission of VIBS is to assist the survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault as well as to help prevent these crimes through education, public services and raising awareness in our communities. I commend this organization for the assistance that they provide to those who live in Suffolk County.
As a result of its service to our communities, I worked to secure funding for VIBS so that they can continue to provide their invaluable service to the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. I believe we must do everything we can to support organizations that provide assistance, advocate prevention and foster awareness of sexual assault and other abuse in our communities.
Sadly, sexual assault is a topic that, in my opinion, is not spoken about enough. In fact, many people are unaware of what constitutes sexual assault, how frequently it happens in our communities, and what to do if they, or someone they know, become a victim of sexual assault. Because April is National Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month, it is appropriate to provide some information about sexual assault – information that may shock some people.
Sexual assault is defined as any non-consensual sexual contact. This includes any unwanted touching, forced or coerced sexual activity and any sexual contact with a child. Sexual assault can happen to anyone – women and men of any age, race, sexual orientation, religion or profession. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. Alarmingly, 1 in 6 women in the U.S. are victims of sexual assault and 1 in 33 men. About 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18 and 80 percent are under the age of 30. What is more disturbing is that more than half of sexual assaults go unreported.
As a father, former police detective and your Assemblyman, I’ve made it a priority to push for legislation that will protect our families from sexual abuse and more severely punish those who commit sex crimes. This past year, the legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of felony sex crimes, and extended to five years the statute of limitations for civil prosecution as well (Chapter 3 of 2006), to ensure that these most vile of crimes do not go unpunished.
In addition, Governor Spitzer recently signed into law legislation I sponsored to ban sexually graphic words transmitted over the Internet to minors – closing a loophole in current law (Ch. 8 of 2007). This year, I also sponsored bills to:
- extend the statute of limitations in criminal and civil actions for certain sex offenses committed against a child less than 18 (A.4560);
- create a state crime victims assistance academy dedicated to addressing the needs of crime victims – especially the child victims of assault (A.6957); and
- establish a state commission on intimate partner violence to study, report on and make recommendations on such violence (A.6855).
I will continue to work in Albany to introduce and vote for legislation that will help protect our loved ones from sexual assault, provide support to victims of sexual assault and punish those who commit these monstrous acts. However, if you, or someone you know, are sexually assaulted it is important that you get the medical treatment that you need and deserve as quickly as possible by following these instructions:
- call 911 or the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk (VIBS) at (631) 360-3730 for an Emergency Room Companion (rape crisis counselor) to accompany you to the emergency room;
- go to the emergency rooms of Peconic Bay Medical Center, Good Samaritan, or John T. Mather hospitals to access a SANE Center; and
- avoid showering, changing clothes, eating or drinking before the examination, as these activities can wash away evidence.
Participation in a sexual assault examination at a SANE Center is confidential, voluntary and free of charge. For more information about sexual assault, visit the VIBS or Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network web site, or www.911rape.org.