The downtown area of Redwood Falls got a bit of a new look earlier this month when a number of teal ribbons appeared on poles along many of the streets. Those ribbons were tied by local individuals whose efforts are intended to bring attention to the fact that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

While raising awareness is an important element of the effort, those who work with victims of sexual assault recognize it is just as important to help people learn how to take action and work toward the ultimate goal of prevention.

According to Halley Morlock, who serves as the coordinator of the New Horizons Crisis Center in Redwood County, the attention generated each April provides an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts throughout the rest of the year.

The theme for this year’s efforts is “I Ask,” which is intended to focus on empowering people to put consent into practice. “I Ask” is a commitment to uplift the importance of consent as a healthy, normal and necessary part of everyday interactions.

According to national statistics, nearly one in five women in the United States has experienced rape or an attempted rape in their lives, with one in 67 men experiencing rape or a rape attempt.

During 2018 in the four county area where New Horizons serves, including Redwood, Lyon, Jackson and Murray counties, there were 60 direct victims of sexual assault. 

Local data from New Horizons also shows 22 of those victims were under the age of 18. A number of different events are held each April as a way to raise awareness and to encourage action, and one of those events is being held April 24.

Known as Denim Day, the public is encouraged to wear jeans as a way to speak up and spark conversation.

According to Morlock, Denim Day was originally triggered by a ruling in an Italian court in the 1990s when a rape conviction was overturned by justices who believed because a women was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the rapist remove them thereby implying consent. In protest the women of Parliament in Italy went to work wearing jeans the following day.

Morlock said while everyone is encouraged to take part in Denim Day, the New Horizons Crisis Center has been recognizing the Denim Day idea by stopping at different organizations and businesses with a Denim Day photo frame. Groups at those locations pose for a photo in the frame as a way to promote the day and to show support for the importance of sexual assault awareness.

Morlock was able to take that frame around the area, and photos of those who posed with the frame can be found on the New Horizons Crisis Center Facebook Page.

Morlock is asking community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans that day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

Learn more by calling the New Horizons Crisis Center in Redwood Falls at (507) 637-5570 or visiting www.newhorizonscrisiscenter.org.