Iron Mountain, Mich (WZMQ) – The “Paint The Town Teal” campaign aims to bring awareness and raise support for sexual assault survivors. Public spaces are often decorated in the color teal, and teal ribbons are often worn throughout the month of April to show support for survivors of sexual assault.
“It’s so vitally important to get the word out that sexual assault can happen to women and men. We have to believe victims that come forward. All too often we hear that ‘well, they’re just making up this story,’. If you look at the statistics from the health department, it will show you that very few – less than 10% – come forward that have not been honest about it,” commented Cheryl O’Neil, the Caringhouse’s executive director.
She added that beyond coming forward, victims have the ability to tell their story. “You’re going to see teal ribbons everywhere. Those were put up by not only staff, but from victims as well, that have come forward and want to make a statement,” she said. O’Neil noted that even if an assault happened years in the past, Caringhouse is there to provide vital resources to survivors.
O’Neil reported that the trauma of being so invaded can last a lifetime for survivors. Some people can suffer chronic depression, and can even struggle with substance abuse to cope with trauma. All the Caringhouse services are free and confidential. There are therapists on staff at Caringhouse to support survivors in the community.
The CaringHouse provides a shelter program that offers temporary housing for survivors and their children who are at risk due to domestic violence or sexual assault. In addition, their advocates offer support to help survivors navigate the legal system, secure restraining orders, custody, and child support. The counseling program offers both one-on-one and group counseling to help survivors recover from trauma, and they also provide support groups to connect with other survivors.
The organization serves anyone within the Dickinson County and surrounding area who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
The Caringhouse reported around 290 cases of sexual assault in Dickinson county in the past year alone. Health and law enforcement agencies paved the way with Caringhouse to sign a new policy in Dickinson county aimed to improve access to sexual assault services in the county. “Unfortunately, it’s very unreported,” remarked O’Neil. She added that the Caringhouse is encouraging survivors that it is safe for them to come forward.
The Michigan State Police are advocating for survivors this month as well. MSP Trooper, Geno Basanese of the Iron Mountain post remarked, “With April being the Sexual Assault Awareness month, if you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please contact your local law enforcement so that they can start the path of recovery for you.”
Trooper Basanese added that the State Police in Iron Mountain is collecting purses or bags for survivors of sexual assault. Those purses can be filled with comfort items, and community members can drop off the purses or bags at anytime to the Iron Mountain State Police Post. The office is open 8-4 central, but there is also a collection site that is available just inside the doors which is open after hours.
The crisis line number for Caringhouse is 906-774-1112.
For more information about the Caringhouse and its services, visit: https://www.caringhouseim.com/