FARMINGTON — Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico has organized two events to bring awareness to a sexual assault and to educate the community about resources available for survivors.

Both events are scheduled for later this month, which is sexual assault awareness month.

The eighth annual Take Back the Night march and rally, which is co-sponsored by the San Juan County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force, takes place Thursday, beginning with a gathering at Safeway on West Main Street. Those gathered will then walk together to Orchard Park, where guest speakers will discuss issues surrounding sexual assault. There will also be an open mic for those wishing to share their own experiences.
Eleana Butler, executive director of Sexual Assault Services, stands in the examination room during a tour on Monday.
Eleana Butler, executive director of Sexual Assault Services, stands in the examination room during a tour on Monday. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)


"Sometimes this is the first time survivors have spoken about their experiences, so it can be very powerful," said Eleana Butler, executive director of Sexual Assault Services.

As dusk falls, a candlelight vigil will be held in honor of survivors and victims.

On Saturday, the third annual "Sassy" Tortoise and Hare Run fundraiser takes place at Lions Wilderness Park. The event offers a 10K run, 5K run/walk and a 1-mile run/walk for children. A barbecue lunch and drinks will be provided to participants following the race. There will also be activities for children and a raffle.

"The Tortoise and Hare Run is a really neat way for people to get out and do something fun and positive to help address this issue," Butler said.

Butler said she hopes both events will bring more awareness to sexual assault, and she points out the large number of sexual assaults that occur each year nationwide.

"It's hard to fathom that one in every three women and one in every six men will be sexually assaulted sometime in their lifetime, and that every three minutes, someone is sexually assaulted," she said. "People get so concerned when they hear about the swine flu or another epidemic, but those numbers are huge.

IF YOU GO

What: Take Back the Night march

When: 7 p.m. Thursday. Line up starts at 6:45 p.m.

Where: Line up at Safeway at 730 W. Main St. March goes to Orchard Park at 302 N. Orchard. Candlelight vigil will be held at dusk.

Cost: Free.

More info:Call 505-325-2805.



What: Sassy Tortoise and Hare Run/Walk

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Lions Wilderness Park, 5800 College Blvd.

Cost: $30 for the 10K, $25 for the 5K, $20 for the Kid s 1 mile run/walk.

More info:To register, visit www.active.com or call 505-325-2805.



For more information on Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico, visit www.sasnwnm.org or call 505-325-2805. The 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached at 505-326-4700, or 1-866-908-4700.

Sexual assault really is the silent epidemic."

Butler said this year's theme for the agency's awareness campaign is "Break the silence of sexual violence."

"Survivors feel blame, and there are now so many young people committing suicide after being assaulted, especially with what's going on with social media," she said. "We have to turn the tide around and put the blame where it belongs, with the perpetrator."

Sexual Assault Services, located at 812 W. Maple, offers free and confidential medical and forensic post-assault treatment through the Sex Assault Nurse Examiners program, as well as crisis advocacy for women, men and children who are victims of sexual assault. On May 15, the agency will move to a larger building at 622 W. Maple St., Suite H. Although survivors are routinely referred to other agencies for ongoing counseling, Butler said her agency has recently received funding for a full-time counselor. That will allow the organization to provide in-house counseling.

The highly-trained SANE nurses provide post-assault medical help by preventing sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies and treating any assault-related injuries. If the survivor chooses, the nurses can also collect evidence that could be used for future prosecution of the perpetrator.

Farmington's SANE group is the third largest program in the state, behind Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Butler said.
Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico collects blankets, towels and toys to give to survivors of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico collects blankets, towels and toys to give to survivors of sexual assault. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)


"A lot of people are surprised that we see so many women, men and children (who have been sexually assaulted) way up here in this corner of the state," she said.

Butler said that 120 people came through the SANE program in 2012 and more than 100 additional individuals sought the agency's help through the Rape Crisis Hotline or other services, which include legal, employment and education help for survivors.

Butler stressed that a sexual assault survivor is not required to file a police report when he or she seeks help from Sexual Assault Service. The only exception is child sex abuse.

"Sometimes, by the time they get advocacy and help and get a sense of empowerment back, they are ready to report. And if there's any chance they might make a report, it's a good idea to get the SANE exam," she said.

Butler said it's important to understand that sexual assault does not always mean rape or penetration. Even an attempted rape is a sexual assault and survivors need support.

"We want survivors to come regardless if they've talked to anyone about the assault, or even if it's been several years since it happened," Butler said. "The main thing we want people to know is that services are available, and that everything is free and confidential."Leigh Black Irvin can be reached at lirvin@daily-times.com; 505-564-4610. Follow her on Twitter @irvindailytimes.