Area events planned to recognize victims of crime, sexual assault

Monday, April 14, 2008

This week, two related commemorative events cross paths. The month of April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while the week of April 13 to 19 is National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

Each April since 1981, the Office for Victims of Crime has promoted rallies, candlelight vigils and commemorative activities to promote victims' rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf.

Locally, the National Crime Victims' Rights Week Proclamation Luncheon will be from noon to 1 p.m. today at Southeast Missouri Hospital. The luncheon, for agencies and organizations that offer help and support to victims of crime, will be followed by a speech by Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle and a National Crime Victim's Rights Week proclamation signed by Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr, Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan, Cape Girardeau police chief Carl Kinnison and other local officials.

A Safe House for Women and Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence program will be at 7 p.m. today at the Cape Girardeau Public Library. Both agencies will be discussing violence against women as a social issue. Representatives will have information available for the public and answer questions concerning sexual violence.

A flower ceremony, organized by the Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney's victim and witness services office and the local office of the Department of Probation and Parole, will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Old Conservation Building at Cape County Park North. It is the first year the ceremony, established in 2003, has been held at night.

The public, crime victims, friends and families of victims, law enforcement and agencies and individuals who provide support to victims are invited to the ceremony, which is intended to honor and remember all victims of crimes by distributing flowers. For more information, call Beth Garoutte, crime victim advocate, at 204-2315 or go to

Because April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a nationally recognized time for raising awareness about and promoting prevention of sexual violence, the Safe House for Women and SEMO-NASV will join with others throughout the state to take a stand against rape by observing National Denim Day on April 24.

The two agencies are encouraging the public to wear jeans to support sexual assault awareness on this day. According to the Office on Women's Health in the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the inspiration behind National Denim Day was an Italian court case. In 1999, the Italian High Court overturned a man's conviction for rape because the court ruled the victim must have helped him remove her tight jeans. Many women in Italy protested, and the movement eventually came to the United States.

Finally, a community based task force meeting sponsored by the Safe House for Women will be held from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. April 28 at VFW Post 3838, Cape Girardeau. The public is invited to listen to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence speak about recognizing intimate partner sexual violence and present ideas on how to talk about sexual violence. There will be an acknowledgment of Crime Victim's Rights Week and Sexual Awareness Month.

For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month or services available in the community, call the Safe House of Women at 335-7745 or SEMO-NASV at 332-1900.

For more information on the Cape Girardeau County Crime Victim's Program, call Beth Garoutte at 204-2315.

335-6611, extension 133

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