April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Patti Carpenter

Sexual violence is common. More than half of women and almost one in three men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sexual violence starts early. Four out of five female rape survivors reported that they were first raped before age 25 and almost half were first raped as a minor. Eight in 10 male survivors report assault before the age of 25, four out of 10 as a minor, according to CDC statistics.
Lisa Gennings, executive director for Crisis and Referral Emergency Services (CARES), said citizens of Big Horn County experience sexual assault at about the same rate as the rest of the country.
Sexual violence is costly. Recent estimates by the CDC put the lifetime cost of rape at $122,461 per survivor, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities and other costs.
Gennings noted that $667 million was spent on sexual violence-related medical costs in the state of Wyoming in 2021. Only 43 cents was spent on prevention for every $1,000 of sexual violence-related medical costs in the same year.
To raise awareness and also much needed funds for local client services, CARES is asking residents of the county to wear denim on Wednesday, April 24, and to donate to the cause. Glass jars tied with a denim ribbon for making donations will be strategically placed in local banks and other businesses throughout the county on that day and through the fourth week of the month. Gennings said all of the proceeds will go to fund local client services.
“This is solely a CARES fundraiser, so all the money goes back to the agency,” explained Gennings. “Fundraisers give us the benefit of non-discretionary funds to use when our grants fall short.”
The denim day fundraiser is a worldwide event that was created following a sexual assault and rape that occurred in Italy in 1997, where an 18-year-old girl’s rapist was released from jail because the judge thought her tight jeans somehow offered consent and contributed to the crime.
The CARES organization offers crisis intervention to victims in Big Horn County. Services include accompanying clients to emergency treatments, assault nurse exams and trauma treatments. CARES advocates also accompany clients to law enforcement interviews, help with reporting and forensic interviews. Advocates are also available to accompany clients to court appearances and can help obtain protection orders. They also help clients navigate the legal process by providing non-legal explanations of justice system procedures and can provide referrals.
CARES, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit. The mission of the organization is to support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, human-trafficking and more. A 24-hour crisis-line is available through CARES every day of the year.
“We serve all victims of crime through our victim witness program and average 250-300 clients a year with thousands of individual services,” Gennings said.   
For more information about CARES, visit www.caresinc.net or email caresbasin1@gmail.com.