Upcoming presentation to dispel myths, raise awareness about sexual assault
April 9, 2012
If you go …
What: Sexual assault awareness program
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane
— The event is open to the public and appropriate for children and teenagers. For more information, call Karen Zimmerman at 629-3799 or Advocates-Crisis Support Services at 824-9709.
“People do not want to talk about sexual assault. They really want to just bury their head in the sand like it’s not happening around them.”
— Karen Zimmerman, Moffat County Sex Assault Response Team coordinator, who is spearheading a presentation Wednesday to raise awareness about sexual assault
Sexual predators are strangers who lurk in dark alleys.
Young children are the primary victims of sexual crimes.
Sexual assault doesn't happen in Moffat County.
The above notions are false, said Karen Zimmerman, who coordinates Moffat County's Sex Assault Response Team.
She's spearheading a presentation Wednesday to shed light on sexual assault and dispel some of the myths surrounding the crime.
The event takes place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane. It is free and open to the public, including families.
The presentation will not contain material inappropriate for children or teenagers, Zimmerman said.
The presentation coincides with April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Zimmerman believes the campaign's theme this year is apt.
"The slogan this year is 'It's Time to Talk About It,'" she said during an interview in March.
She plans to define what sexual assault is and to confront common misconceptions about sexual violence.
"People in society have the mentality that it's the stranger in a dark alley that rapes," she said. "And it's not. It's usually somebody that you know, somebody that you've had acquaintance with."
The crime is indiscriminate and can happen to elderly adults in nursing homes as well as children, she said.
Sexual assault is a topic Zimmerman believes many residents would rather not broach.
"People do not want to talk about sexual assault," she said. "They really want to just bury their head in the sand like it's not happening around them."
But for she and other members of SART — which includes Advocates-Crisis Support Services, the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, Department of Social Services and the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office — sexually based crimes are a chilling reality.
Wednesday's presentation also includes the voice of Craig resident Amber Hampton, who found justice after years of sexual abuse from her stepfather, Cyril Joseph Lenahan IV.
In November 2011, Lenahan, of Craig, was convicted of one count of sexual assault on a child with a pattern of abuse, a Class 3 felony; one count of sexual assault on a child, a Class 4 felony; and one count of sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust, a Class 4 felony.
He was sentenced in February to 15 years to life in prison.
Being believed first by law enforcement then by a panel of 12 jurors gave Hampton closure after years of sexual abuse that began when she was a child and continued into her teenage years, she said.
By telling her story, she hopes to let other survivors know they are not alone, "that the district attorneys' office does take this seriously and they do prosecute," she said.
Hampton also affirms that sexual assault does not eclipse hope for a full life.
Although confronting the abuse from her past was at times excruciating, it made her stronger, she said, "and it's helped me embrace that I can't change the past but I can use that and build my future."
"The assault happened to me," she said. "It isn't who I am."
For more information about Wednesday's presentation, call Zimmerman at 629-3799 or Advocates-Crisis Support Services at 824-9709.
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