For Voice of Hope, a Lubbock nonprofit that provides free services to victims of sexual assault, April is an important month. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the people who work at Voice of Hope said there are a few misconceptions about sexual assault on the South Plains.
“It affects all races, all socioeconomic levels, it doesn’t discriminate,” explained Leslie Timmons who has worked with Voice of Hope for seven years. She currently serves as their community editor and volunteer coordinator.
She added that many people don’t realize that around 85 percent of sexual assault cases are commited by people who already know the victim.
In Lubbock, 93 percent of the cases Voice of Hope saw last year were women, but more men may be victims of sexual assault than they have on their records because men are less likely to report instances of sexual assault. Timmons said the Voice of Hope saw 374 cases last year. They’ve already seen over 95 cases this year, which is ten more than the number of cases they’d seen at the same time last year.
Voice of Hope works with victims of sexual assault through every step of their recovery, from meeting them at the hospital, to providing counseling, to connecting them with community resources.
“[Sexual assault] is very prevalent here in West Texas and the South Plains specifically,” Timmons explained. She added that contrary to what many people in Lubbock believe, the per-capita rate of sexual assault in Lubbock is on-par with larger metropolitan areas like Dallas Austin, and Houston.
“Everyone thinks we’re out in our own little bubble out here in West Texas and we don’t have to deal with [sexual assault] that and a lot of people don’t want to talk about it because it’s not a fun topic to talk about,” Timmons said. “But it won’t go away until we talk about, it so we have to adress the issue.”
To kick off Sexual Assault Awareness month, Voice of Hope hosted their annual ” Walk a Mile in her Shoes Event” which nearly 400 people attended. This event is part of a larger push to get men involved in sexual assault awareness and to prevent people from placing blame with the victims of sexual assault.
“Really, only one person perpetrates the act of sexual assault, it’s not the victim it’s the perpetrator,” Timmons said. “It doesn’t matter if you were out drinking you certainly don’t deserve to be assaulted. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, you certainly didn’t go out looking to be assaulted.”
She said that if you know someone who is a victim of sexual abuse or assault, the best thing to do is listen to that victim and offer support. Many victims, Timmons said, won’t share their experiences of being assaulted because they are afraid people won’t believe them or will accuse them instead.
For victims of sexual assault, Timmon’s said, Voice of Hope is ready to lend them a helping hand at any hour.
“The firs thing they need to know is that they don’t have to do this alone,” she said. “We’re here for them when they’re ready, when they want to access our services, we don’t want to rush them but when they’re ready we’re ready to help them 24/7. We can set them up with our sexual assault counselor for her services, we can help them with resources, all different kinds of resources in the community so they don’t have to go through this alone.”
Later on during the month, Voice of Hope will host a session for truckers and law enforcement to educate them about the signs of human trafficking. They will also be taking to social media with the color teal, as part of an effort to “Turn Texas Teal” for sexual assault awareness.
Voice of Hope welcomes support and donations, you can reach them here.