BELOIT—April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Family Services’ Sexual Assault Recovery Program (SARP) is celebrating its 20th anniversary of service in Green and Rock counties with more events than ever before to mark the important monthlong push.

All events will either be virtual or in-person with COVID-19 safety mitigations in place.

“This is a big deal for SARP,” said Defy Domestic Abuse Director of Empowerment Services Kelsey Hood-Christianson. “The pandemic has pushed us a little bit more and we’ve learned how to reach people in the community through digital platforms, along with adapting in-person events to be safe. We’re doing things a little different this year, but we are still celebrating and empowering survivors and raising awareness.”

In 2020, the SARP program in Rock and Green counties helped nearly 300 survivors of sexual assault as 293 people were connected to support services that resulted in a total of 3,288 hours of individual service and 116 hours of group services, organization data shows.

“We want the community to know that we haven’t gone away and that we are here still working full-time to assist survivors in any way we can,” Hood-Christianson said. “We want to continue to grow our outreach in both Green and Rock counties.”

New this year to the awareness month’s event schedule will be a survivor-focused art show that will highlight a number of pieces created by assault survivors that will be published online. The art show kicks off at 7 p.m. on April 9 on the SARP Facebook page via live video stream.

“Art is integrated in different ways for support groups and our individual services,” Hood-Christianson said. “We really want to highlight what art can do in a survivor’s journey. We have a panel that will be lead by a artist who is a survivor, along with an art therapist so we can talk about that intersection of healing and creativity.”

On April 23, SARP will host a “Take Back The Night” walk from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Putnam Park in Brodhead for a family-friendly event to inspire conversations around education about sexual violence, human trafficking myths and the warning signs of abuse. Emotional support staff will be on-hand to speak with participants and SARP staff will run information stations.

“Take Back The Night dates back to England in 1877,” Hood-Christianson said. “It really was to protest and stand against fear and violence that women encounter at dark. We shouldn’t have to experience that and it’s such a historical connection for us to tie into what we do today.”

April 28 will be Denim Day as in past years as people across the country are asked to wear jeans to support survivors and raise awareness about sexual assault.

A final exhibit titled “What Were You Wearing” will center on survivor descriptions of the clothes they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted and the event’s aim is to combat the myth that clothing is the reason someone is assaulted. The Facebook Live event will feature a video compilation from survivors and a live poetry reading. Volunteers interested in participating in the project are asked to contact Paula Vestin at pvestin@sarpwi.com.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from sexual assault or abuse in any form, visit www.sarpwi.com or call the 24 hour crisis hotline at 1-866-666-4576.