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Hochul issues proclamation declaring April Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Wed, Apr 3rd 2024 06:50 pm

Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Office of General Services cohost NYS Denim Day exhibit; Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence launches public ‘Dating in the Digital’ social media campaign, weekly ‘Sexual Violence 101’ training for workers

Submitted by the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul recognized April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in New York, issuing a statewide proclamation. Coinciding with the announcement, the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) will host the New York State Denim Day exhibit in partnership with the Office of General Services (OGS), and launch its “Dating in the Digital” social media campaign focused on safe online dating habits that promote awareness around AI and online blackmail. Additionally, OPDV announced weekly “Sexual Violence 101” awareness trainings.

“The fight against sexual assault requires us to recognize the gravity of these issues and the collective responsibility to creating environments that make survivors feel safe,” Hochul said. “As we mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, we must continue to support survivors across New York state and encourage them to use their voices to bring these issues to light.”

International Denim Day was established following a court ruling over 25 years ago, in which the attacker of an 18-year-old was able to overturn his conviction by claiming he would not have been able to remove her jeans without her assistance. The verdict sparked worldwide protests, with women around the world wearing denim jeans in solidarity with survivors. The New York State Denim Day exhibit will be available for viewing in the Empire State Plaza Concourse from April 23-25.

OPDV will also launch the “Dating in the Digital” social media campaign, which includes special social media profile filters people can download and share to show their support for survivors and educate others in the community on sexual exploitation and violence in the digital world. Each filter highlights a different form of abuse. The filters will be available on OPDV’s website for download throughout April and beyond. More information on the filters and a tutorial on how they can be uploaded can be found here.

Finally, OPDV will also host “Sexual Violence 101,” a weekly hour-long virtual training course for staff, supervisors and administrators working in local social service districts, private nonprofit agencies, municipalities, etc., who help survivors of gender-based and sexual violence. This web-based training is a basic introduction to gender-based and sexual violence, including definitions, defining consent and statistics.

New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Kelli Owens said, “As online dating and internet use continues to grow in popularity as the easiest way to meet new people, we must redefine what dating and consent look like while addressing the dangers they can pose. This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, OPDV is dedicated to educating New Yorkers on sextortion and AI generated images and recording, such as deepfakes, while promoting healthy behaviors online.”

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Sexual assault is a serious public health problem that can cause devastating and lifelong health repercussions for survivors, impacting their physical, emotional and psychological welfare. These assaults also affect the family, friends and co-workers of sexual assault victims, and the state Health Department is committed to survivor-centered and culturally sensitive responses to sexual violence, while expanding and improving the public health response in New York state.”

Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave said, “I am pleased to join the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence today in reinforcing New York state’s commitment to ending sexual violence. We must all work together – as individuals, communities and organizations – to increase awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault, especially in the digital space. We also need to collaborate on ways to prevent such assault, including domestic violence, youth dating violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking. OCFS supports a network of resources and services to assist youth who experience sexual assault and their caregivers, to reassure them that assault is never their fault, and help them heal.”

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, “I am pleased to join Gov. Hochul and our colleagues in state government to help raise awareness about sexual assault and honor survivors for their resiliency and strength. We are also grateful to OPDV for once again providing this valuable training to our local social services district partners who are counted on to provide survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive services to survivors of sexual violence.”

Office of Victim Services Acting Director and Counsel John Watson said, “We are committed to ensuring that individuals who have been victims of sexual assault can access services and support when they need them.”

Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado said, “The prevalence of technology has changed every aspect of our lives. I commend OPDV for working to raise awareness about the dangers of online dating and tech-assisted crimes, and empowering New Yorkers with information to make smart decisions and better ensure their personal safety.”

New York State’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline provides free, confidential support 24/7 and is available in most languages: 800-942-6906 (call), 844-997-2121 (text) or @ opdv.ny.gov (chat). Individuals also can visit www.ovs.ny.gov/connect to find a victim assistance program in their community. The Office of Victim Services also funds and supports 239 victim assistance programs across the state that provide essential services, such as crisis counseling, support groups, case management, emergency shelter, civil legal help, and relocation assistance, among other assistance, to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes, and their families.

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