GREENWICH, Conn. -- The stark realities of sexual assault were evident in the official proclamation Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei read Thursday in proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The proclamation noted that one of every three girls before the age of 16 and one out of every six boys before the age of 16 will experience sexual assault.
"That to me is a very disturbing fact, and one that gives validation to the need to have The Center," Tesei said about the Stamford-based The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling & Education. "Sadly, there is that need because of that statistic and I think today our goal is to make people more widely aware that this is a prevailing problem."
The Center serves Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, Weston and Wilton, providing free confidential help to men, women and children who have experienced sexual assault.
He encouraged people who have been victimized to come forward and to step out of the shadows.
Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, who is also a board member for The Center, said the center hopes for a day when it will no longer be needed.
"I think it's very rare when a board's mission is actually to put themselves out of business, and ultimately that's what our board would like to see happen," she said. "Where we live in a world free that's free of sexual assault, where we don't need to provide these kinds of services."
Until that time, preventing sexual assault through education beginning with young people and reaching out to the communities they serve are their priorities, she said.
Also at the press conference Thursday were Greenwich Police Chief James Heavey; Greenwich Selectman Drew Marzullo; Kids in Crisis executive director Shari Shapiro; Mary Lee Kiernan, a member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate & Taxation; Norwalk Common Council member Phaedrel Bowman; and Jennifer Byxbee, Town of Greenwich Youth Services coordinator.
The Center has adopted Campus Sexual Violence Prevention as its theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The Center's Executive Cirector Ivonne Zucco said she is hopeful about the future and believes attitudes and awareness are changing for the better.
"They are changing slowly, but they are, and I am very hopeful," Zucco said.
The state has moved to fight sexual abuse and increase education at both colleges and all public schools, which include sexual assault prevention education as part of their curriculum.
"For us that is very important because we have been doing education and prevention for years," she said. "It is almost like a dream come true to know that every child in the state of Connecticut who goes to public school will be receiving this kind of knowledge."
The number of reported sexual assaults are rising on college campuses throughout the country and in Connecticut.
The Center works with University of Connecticut in Stamford and Norwalk Community College on initiatives to keep these campuses safe and to provide crisis counseling and advocacy services to victims.
For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, The Center will be hosting events to raise awareness at area high schools as well as at UConn-Stamford and Norwalk Community College.
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