Local Advocacy Group to Hold Second-Annual HELP Walk - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Local Advocacy Group to Hold Second-Annual HELP Walk

Local Advocacy Group to Hold Second-Annual HELP Walk

LAWTON Okla._ April is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Prevention Month and experts say raising awareness is key.

Here is Southwest Oklahoma, advocates say over sixty cases are reported by adults and children each year. That's why they're holding a 5K walk against sexual violence in Elmer Thomas Park next Saturday. They hope it will help raise awareness about sexual assault and child abuse in our own community.

The Healing Expressions Lead to Prevention, or HELP, advocacy center is a place where victims of sexual assault can get not only medical treatment, but also emotional and psychological support services. They said that the second highest at- risk group for sexual assault cases ranges from 16 to 25. The center said if they can educate this age group, it could bring the number of cases down. That's why the center is targeting this demographic at the upcoming walk.

Cherisa Standridge, a volunteer at the center, said there are several reasons why that demographic is so at risk. 

"There out and there being social, there's a lot of drinking going on. People are vulnerable when they're drinking and they're not aware of what's going on around them. Of course we teach them to trust their instincts. People who've been victims of sexual assault say if they'd trusted their instincts this may not have happened", she said.

Standridge said that's why it's so important to reach out to this group now before it's too late. Lawton sophomore Nicholas Singleton said he agrees with that. He said a lot of today's teens all too familiar to sexual harassment and bullying .

"There has been a couple of things I've seen happen but people, in there groups, are desensitized to those things. It's just something that happens and people think it's normal", said Singleton.

Local teacher Lindsey Hoebert said even educators have noticed the change.

"There's so much slang these days. You try to pass it by and say oh that's just a word they use these days. But there's lots of bullying and things that are said and shouldn't be said. Students are brave, they'll say almost anything that comes to mind", said Hoebert.

The center said they want to work to change that. Christie Thomas, a registered sexual assault nurse, said they're hoping for a large turnout at the upcoming HELP walk, to educate today's youth and let victims know they care.

"Some of them are very reluctant to tell their story. Some of them are very reluctant to participate in the investigation with law enforcement, and a lot of the cases end like that. It's concerning, with this walk we want people to know that there's people here to take care of you if this happens. That we're here to support you", said Thomas.

The HELP walk is Saturday, April 27th, at Elmer Thomas Park. It starts at nine AM. After the walk, they will have lots of events for both children, teens and adults. You can register online at www.helpadvocacycenter.org. There's is no entry fee.


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