7th Annual Sexual Assault Awareness Conference informs many professions

Wichita Falls_In Wichita Falls, Sheppard Air Force Base, Midwestern State University, and the Star Council have teamed up for the Seventh Annual Sexual Assault Awareness Conference to educate the public about sexual assault and violence.  People from all professions attend this conference.  In particular, counselors and social workers there found the information invaluable to their work.  They say that since over 272,000 victims of sexual assault were recorded in just 2006 alone, they can use all the help they can get.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 33 men, are victims of sexual assault.  "A lot of people don't like to address that topic - sexual abuse, violence, domestic violence, abuse against young children - don't like to talk about that, don't even like to think about it," says "Speak Up, Speak Out" Chairman Deborah Higginbotham.  She says that's why it's so important to be informed about the issue.

Higginbotham helps to organize the annual event, which includes workshops ranging from recognizing child abuse, to violence against the disabled.  Booths are set up to provide information about all types of sexual assault.

Sheppard Air Force Base Lieutenant Kimbray McNeal is a social worker on base, and says this event and the lecture will help her do her job better.  "The more aware you are, the more comfortable you feel coming and self-reporting, or assisting someone who has come to you for help," she says.  Amanda Arias also attended the conference.  She is a foster parent with 12 children.  "All the classes I've been to today have been very educational, and really easy to learn, and practical," she says.

Higginbotham says the conference isn't only informational - she says it can save lives.  "The stories, the lives that can be damaged, how it carries on for you know their adults to their children is terrible," she says.  It's very important that we break into those cycles.  We all have our own responsibility - if we all do our part, it's easier and we can prevent a lot of things from happening."

The conference will also offer a self-defense course with trained instructors teaching those attending how to defend themselves in the event of an assault.  The conference continues Wednesday at 9 a.m., and topics will range from cyber-stalking, to treatments available for sex offenders.  For more information, call Midwestern State University at 940-397-4000, or visit their website at http://www.mwsu.edu/.