2018-10-04 / Front Page

Day One, YMCA Tackle Sexual Abuse

By Amy Martin

Sexual abuse (the umbrella term for all types of sexual violations) knows no bounds in those it affects: females, males, children, old, young. The impact can be devastating, life-altering and, in many cases, hushed. According to sexual abuse experts, awareness, understanding and access to help are imperative for advocacy and healing.

Day One, a Providence-based sexual assault organization that handles issues of sexual assault as a community concern, has as its mission “to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence as well as to support and advocate for those affected by it.”

Prior to Sept. 1, victims had to travel to the organization’s clinical office in Providence. Now, satellite offices are available for scheduled appointments at the Newport County YMCA in Middletown and the Ocean Community YMCA in Westerly.

Shannon D’Eramo, the chief operating officer for the Newport County YMCA, said that Day One and the YMCA are a symbiotic fit. “It goes along with our mission and that we want our community to be healthy in mind, body and spirit,” she said.

“Day One [community members] come broken, and they’re trying to get back to that healthy person that they used to be before this trauma happened to them,” D’Eramo said.

John Canole, chief strategy officer for Day One, said that the organization looked at areas where it needed to expand and “where our current clients were coming from” before expanding. “All clinical services were in our main office in Providence, but we really wanted to make it easier on our clients and more accessible.”

They’ve now added Newport County, Westerly, and hope to add other locations across the state, Canole said.

Day One addresses sexual assault for women, men and children. Rhode Island is the only state in the country to have law enforcement advocates from Day One in every police department. “Day One is here for anyone that needs support for any part of their recovery,” Canole said.

The clinics offer treatment, intervention, education and preventative services. Clients range from preschool-aged children to seniors.

“Sexual assault is about power and control,” said Joanne Waite, director of clinical services at Day One. “[The perpetrator] wants to be able to tell [the victim] what to do or be in charge of their body when it’s not their body.”

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), sexual violence includes sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual assault of men and boys, intimate partner sexual violence, incest and drug-facilitated sexual assault. One out of every six women and one out of every 33 men in the United States have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

Prior to turning 18, one in four girls and one in six boys will report being sexually assaulted, RAINN reports. Seventy percent of sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows, and over 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

A majority of Day One’s victims are children, hence the establishment of the organization’s Children’s

Advocacy Center, which is specifically designed for adolescents.

“[The Children’s Advocacy Center] really helps limit the re-traumatization of the child telling their story,” Canole said. “Before, a child would have to tell their story nine, 10 times. Once to prosecution, law enforcement, medical, etc. Now, everyone is on the same team and it helps limit [the re-telling].”

Differences and common threads exist with adult and child victims. “You’re going to see more acting-out behaviors in kids than you would adults, but what they do have in common is that shame and not wanting to tell because they think they did something wrong and that it’s their fault. So, we see that in the adult population and children,” said Waite.

Day One believes the cultural impact by the 'Me Too.' movement (known as #MeToo in social media), founded in 2006, and the convictions of public figures like Bill Cosby and Larry Nassar, has influenced men, women and children to come forward and tell their stories.

“We’ve already exceeded the numbers of people we reached last year and we still have another three to four months to go in the year,” Canole said. “We see more disclosures happening. With the whole 'Me Too' movement, people see someone else has come forward and said this has happened to them, so they’re feeling more comfortable to say, yes this happened to me as well.

“It really has been a shift in making people feel comfortable. We’ve had some people flat-out say it’s because of the 'Me Too' movement or the high-profile cases.”

In fact, there is now a Twitter campaign that allows people to share why it is they didn’t report their own episodes of sexual abuse, #WhyIDidntReport, which was initiated this past September.

For Rhode Islanders, help is closer than ever before. Day One offers a 24-hour helpline at 800-494-8100, for victims, family members or anyone that has questions. Clinical services can be scheduled for the Newport County YMCA location by calling 401-421-4100, ext. 121.

Waite addresses what are known to be the grave personal and societal repercussions of sexual assault and insists, “It’s not your fault. And when it’s not your fault you can tell. And if you tell somebody and they don’t believe you, keep telling until somebody helps you.”

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