HAVEN partners with DOJ to place billboard promoting sexual assault awareness, advocacy
Those entering the city of Merrill from the south on County Road K recently may have noticed a new addition in the form of a billboard bearing a powerful message; “You matter. Your story matters.”
According to a press release issued by the DOJ (Wisconsin Department of Justice) last month, the billboard is a result of the By Your Side Wisconsin campaign launched last month by the DOJ and WCASA (Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault), of which Lincoln County was one of 29 counties targeted across the state.
“Attorney General Josh Kaul and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA) have partnered to place billboards for sexual assault victim services in 29 counties, many of which are Wisconsin’s most rural counties. These billboards will help raise awareness across the state of where survivors of sexual assault can find support,” said Attorney General Kaul.
“Particularly during this challenging time, connecting with survivors is so important. Too often, survivors of sexual abuse don’t know where they can access support. These billboards across the state let survivors know there are people out there who will be by their side,” said Pennie Meyers, Executive Director of WCASA.
“The billboards, part of the By Your Side Wisconsin awareness campaign, help sexual assault survivors and their families find advocacy and support services in their community. 35 billboards are placed in 29 counties, and can be seen around the state until October. Funding for the billboards are provided by a grant from Sexual Assault Kit Initiative from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“To receive help locally, find information at https://byyoursidewi.org/. Services provided by these agencies are free and confidential. Their services are also available to family members, partners, and friends of a survivor who are dealing with their own reactions to the sexual assault.”
As HAVEN Director Kim West explains, the agency was contacted by and worked closely with the DOJ on billboard placement and design. The design was chosen specifically to assist in advocating for underrepresented populations.
“We are hoping the billboard assures survivors that they matter and advocates are here to listen to their stories and offer them many kinds of support. Sexual violence can be unwanted contact, rape, harassment, child sexual abuse, incest, trafficking, stalking, reproductive coercion, and/or intimate partner sexual violence. About 1.2 million Wisconsin adults have experienced a form of sexual violence in their lifetimes (1 in 3 women/ 1 in 7 men).
“In 2019, HAVEN supported 296 survivors; 32 people reported as sexual abuse/assault victims, 177 individuals disclosed being victims of both domestic and sexual violence and 87 clients of domestic abuse victims. We know that many sexual assaults are not reported due to fear and shame,” she adds.
For more information, visit HAVEN online at http://www.haveninc.org/ or via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HavenIncLincolnCountyWI. HAVEN also operates a 24/7 support and crisis line at (715) 536-1300.