April is an important time for D/SAOC

When you think of the Domestic Sexual Assault Outreach Center (DSAOC), you may picture a women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. What most do not realize is it is much more than that. As advocates, we work with individuals of all genders, not just females. DSAOC provides services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking and other violent crimes. We work with what happens “behind closed doors,” or the “dirty laundry” as some may say. We see the side no one wants to talk about and that is why we are here. Individuals flee from the person causing them harm and often have nothing because of it. Sometimes they leave with the clothes on their backs, in the middle of the night, and many times children are a part of this process. Thankfully, victims have a place to go, because of DSAOC.

This is not an easy job by any means. It is not always sunshine and rainbows, but seeing a client smile for the first time in what they feel has been forever makes it worth it. Seeing an individual establishing their life free from violence after all they have been through takes courage and strength. We see that, and are a part of that. We see their tears, heartbreak, pain, smiles and even laughter. When our clients come into shelter, they are hurting, beaten down, ashamed and even scared. We are their strength until they realize that strength is within them. We offer services such as safety planning, counseling, case management, and goal setting which gives victims the tools to gain control of their life.

Many see April as a month of anticipation. April showers clean and clear the way for the earth to come alive, the sun becomes warmer and the expectation of sunny and warmer days brings excitement. To advocates, April is both an important and exciting time at DSAOC. It is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, observance of Crime Victim’s Rights Week and the month we put on the Annual Cake Auction, our biggest fundraiser of the year. April includes three vital events for our organization and victim services across Iowa.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to provide awareness and education to people throughout communities while promoting safety, respect and equality. Almost 1 in 5 women and 1 in 67 men have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives. This is a serious, widespread problem that people of all ages may experience. Victims are forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without consent. We see this daily and are thankful that an entire month is devoted to awareness and prevention of these crimes.

A vital part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is prevention and awareness. As advocates we promote safe actions, policies and healthy relationships. We help in the process of promoting safe and sensible communities where people are treated with respect. When victims disclose they have been sexually assaulted, we listen, support and believe their story.

Prevention work can be done in many ways. People within communities do not have to be part of an organization to stand up and speak out against violence. Embrace your voice. Once you stand up for survivors of sexual violence, you send an extremely powerful message regarding your belief and support for victims. When you hear someone blame a victim, speak out against it. One word, one voice makes a difference. Our words shape the world around us. Whether you show support, or help someone better understand awareness within sexual violence, remember your voice is powerful!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month also stands out against sexual violence. Be on the lookout for colors relating to this. Teal is the designated color for sexual assault awareness and prevention. Watch for teal ribbons, posters, T-shirts, social media and ads throughout the month of April.

National Crime Victim’s Rights Week

The week of April 8-14 is observed as National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. This is a time when advocates across the nation can observe and educate victims. The theme this year is Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims. This theme looks into how the crime victim’s field can better ensure every victim of crime has access to services and support. We also focus on how professionals, organizations and communities can work together to reach all victims.

23rd Annual DSAOC Cake Auction

One of the biggest events we have at DSAOC is the Annual Cake Auction. This year’s cake auction will be held April 14 at the Iowa Central Community College East Campus. We are amazed at the amount of support we receive from the community. From very humble beginnings of about a dozen items, the DSAOC Cake Auction has grown to over 225 auction items. A nice thing about the DSAOC Cake Auction is there is opportunity for any level of giving from buying a single raffle ticket, donating a cake to purchasing a large auction item. The advocates at DSAOC work very hard to ensure everyone has a great time.

Besides being our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Annual Cake Auction also allows advocates to take a step away from the daily work they do with victims. The Cake Auction is a social event that allows us to showcase awareness of what it is like to be an advocate. It is a reminder that what we do makes a difference not only to the clients we serve, but also to the community.

DSAOC cordially invites everyone to the 23rd Annual Cake Auction. Admission is free, the doors will open at 5 p.m. and the silent auction will then begin. The live auction will commence at 6 p.m. All auction items are paired with delightful cakes. Proceeds benefit victims of domestic assault, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, other violent crimes and loved ones of homicide. Do not forget our raffle drawing with a prize of $500. We could not make this event possible without the support of the community, volunteers and donors, as well as the DSAOC staff and board of directors.

April is a busy month for everyone at DSAOC, however our highest priority is the victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, other violent crimes and loved ones of homicide. Advocates at the Domestic Sexual Assault Outreach Center stand behind our mission statement which reads, “We offer safety, support and hope to adult and child victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, violent crime and loved ones of homicide victims, because all people deserve a violence-free life and a compassionate community.” The rights and safety of victims of violence still remains the focus of the Domestic Sexual Assault Outreach Center. We could not help provide free and confidential services to victims if we did not have the generous support of the community, volunteers and the DSAOC Board of Directors. We greatly appreciate all of the help everyone in the community continues to give to this organization.

Thank you.

Submitted by Emily Schoon and Lori Powers, D/SAOC Shelter Advocates.

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