PROGRAM ADDRESSES SEXUAL VIOLENCE

April 26, 2001 12:00 am
TAKING A STAND AGAINST VIOLENCE: Jake Solis, Kelsey Steinbeck, Madeleine Smith and Brett Grace, left to right, place foil flowers in courthouse lawn. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).
TAKING A STAND AGAINST VIOLENCE: Jake Solis, Kelsey Steinbeck, Madeleine Smith and Brett Grace, left to right, place foil flowers in courthouse lawn. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Some 75 people gathered at the courthouse earlier this week as seventh-graders planted 1,871 foil flowers in the lawn. Each flower represented a woman forcibly raped each day in the United States, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics.

Another 67 flowers, in a circle, represented the estimated number of victims sexually assaulted in Wallowa County last year, according to the Safe Harbors Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services Program.

If Justice Bureau statistics hold true locally, a dozen of the 60 children participating will be victims of sexual assault by the time they are 18.

The bureau estimates that more than 70 percent of rapes are never reported to authorities.

The students through planting flowers were trying to end that silence and increase public awareness of a significant problem, in order to make homes, families and the community safe for everyone.

The planting was the culmination of a physical education and health class presentation by Janet Shook, AmeriCorps community educator for Safe Harbors. Shook said she wanted to increase awareness of the sexual assault problem to help prevent it.

She also wanted the students to know about Safe Harbors as a place where they can turn if they need help.

Her emphasis was also in teaching the students how to support friends and family regarding violent situations.

The public is encouraged to contact Safe Harbors at 426-4004 to get involved by volunteering as an advocate, a board member, or to help with the crisis shelter.

It is important to become educated, Shook said. Safe Harbors staff conducts presentations, and a Blue Mountain Community College three-credit class is taught twice a year.

The Wallowa County Board of Commissioners got involved by designating the month of April Sexual Assault Awareness Month in perpetuity.

The Wallowa County domestic violence and rape crisis 24-hour hotline is 426-6565.