An open house is Thursday

Support Within Reach (SWR) is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a long-standing sexual violence resource center in Itasca County. The center invites the public to join them for an open house event Thursday, Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. At this time, the center will kick-off a new public education campaign, “Start By Believing.”

The theme of the event will be, “Let’s Taco Bout Sexual Violence Prevention.” Taco-in-a-bag, dessert and light refreshments will be served. The open house will be at SWR’s new location—Willow Professional Building, 9 Willow Lane, Grand Rapids.

There will be many activities at the event including the tours of the building, the opportunity to register for door prizes and learn about volunteer opportunities, and the chance to join the “Start By Believing” campaign pledge drive. Guests can also ask SWR Executive Director Caroline Larson questions regarding the organization’s future goals.

“‘Start By Believing’ is a grassroots campaign that’s designed to transform the ways in which Itasca County communities respond to victims of sexual violence,” District 2 Supervisor for SWR Sherry Shadley said.

Over the next three years, the campaign will be implemented throughout Itasca County. Its goal is to improve how the community respond to sexual violence. This includes not blaming victims of sexual assault, holding offenders accountable and breaking the silence that typically surrounds the topic. Shadley reported that campaign was created in response to the increasing demand for victim advocacy services SWR provides. Just this past year, the need for these services have doubled.

“Through SWR’s ‘Start By Believing’ Campaign, Itasca County residents will learn that survivors need to be believed, their stories need to be heard and supporting a culture where harm is allowed to occur is not acceptable,” Shadley said.

As little as one in five victims of a sexual assault will report the crime, according to Shadley. She added that victims who disclose the assault to someone who offers support are more likely to report the assault to law enforcement and seek medical attention.

SWR provides services to anyone who has experienced sexual violence either directly or indirectly. The mission of this non-profit organization is, “to reduce the impact and harm of sexual violence in the communities we serve.”

According to a press release from SWR, services that are free and confidential include, “a 24-hour crisis line, basic 1-to1 peer counseling, medical accompaniment to sexual assault examinations, law enforcement advocacy through the reporting process, prosecutorial advocacy (support at hearings and trials), and outreach to outlying communities located within Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard and Itasca Counties.”

For more information about SWR, visit https://www.supportwithinreach.org/.

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