Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Centre Safe and Better2gether Collab to Hold Events Honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month

By Jennifer Pencek

Executive Director, Centre Safe

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month with the theme this year being “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” The campaign calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change themselves and the systems to build equity and respect.

Sexual assault, at its core, is a devastating abuse of power — one that affects people of every identity. It is on all of us to stand up and speak out against it, not only to improve the laws and services available to survivors, but also to change the culture and attitudes that allow sexual assault to proliferate. Together, we must work toward a society that upholds every person’s right to live free from sexual violence — where our institutions and communities commit to preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment, supporting survivors, and holding offenders accountable.

Sexual violence is a crime of power. It is motivated by a desire to control, dominate, or humiliate another person and sex is the weapon used. Offenders are most often someone the victim knows – a friend, intimate partner, acquaintance, coach, family member, etc. Sexual violence violates a person’s trust and feelings of safety. Sexual assault occurs without regard to gender, intimate-partner relationship, or age of the victim.


With April serving as national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM), Centre Safe and the Better2gether Collab are joining forces to support survivors and spread education and prevention efforts across the region.

Along with Centre Safe, Better2gether Collab includes Children and Youth Services, the YMCA of Centre County, Youth Service Bureau, and Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County Mount Nittany Health.

Events include:

Bellefonte Courthouse Lit Up in Teal and Blue: The Bellefonte Courthouse will be lit up in teal and blue during the month of April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Centre County Commissioners will present a proclamation at their April 4 meeting to Centre Safe and Children and Youth Services in recognition of the month of awareness.

On-Line Safety Workshops: The Better2gether Collab will be offering digital courses and workshops for parents/grandparents and children 10 years old and up about online safety. The workshops will be held at the four YMCA branches. The dates and locations for the workshops are:

April 10, 5-7 p.m., Moshannon Valley YMCA Branch

April 12, 6-8 p.m., Bellefonte YMCA Branch

April 24, 6-8 p.m., State College YMCA Branch

April 26, 6-8 p.m., Penns Valley YMCA Branch

Register for the workshops at

Denim Day: April 26 is Denim Day. All who care about having a safe community free of sexual violence is invited to wear denim with millions of people across the world. On #DenimDay we wear denim to support survivors and use it as a day to educate ourselves and others about the realities of sexual violence. Centre Safe will be active on social media sharing posts and information. Wear denim, invite your clubs or groups to join you, and tag yourselves on @CentreSafe platforms. For more information on the history and story of the campaign visit:

So how can you support someone who has experienced sexual assault whether the assault happened recently or years ago?

Here are some specific phrases RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline staff recommend to be supportive through a survivor’s healing process:

“I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds to traumatic events differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.

“It is not your fault. / You did not do anything to deserve this.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.

“You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.” Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Assess if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.

“I am sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.

There’s no timetable when it comes to recovering from sexual violence. If someone trusted you enough to disclose the event to you, consider the following ways to show your continued support.

  • Avoid judgment.It can be difficult to watch a survivor struggle with the effects of sexual assault for an extended period of time. Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover such as, “You’ve been acting like this for a while now,” or “How much longer will you feel this way?”
  • Check in periodically.The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
  • Know your resources.You are a strong supporter, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with resources you can recommend to a survivor.

Centre Safe provides free and confidential services for anyone in Centre County, including counseling, advocacy, legal support, outreach and education, shelter, transitional housing, and safe custody exchanges/supervised visitations via its Child Access Center. Centre Safe’s 24/7 hotline is toll-free at 877-234-5050. Learn more at

For more information about Centre Safe and SAAM/CAPM events, contact me at 814-238-7066 or