Sexual assault has been big topic of conversation recently in the media and on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus. Fliers reading “Consent is Sexy” have covered university buildings with information and statistics. For example, one in four college women across the country report that they have been a victim of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.
The Bloomington YWCA has started to offer additional support for rape survivors in the McLean County area. They have a hotline as well as in-person crisis help and advocacy.
“Volunteers will give support to rape victims, providing them with answers to medical questions and helping them with legal system procedures,” said YWCA Executive Director Becky Hines.
All staff and volunteers have been trained with counseling and policy procedures to ensure maximum support for survivors. They offer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“It’s so great that places like the YWCA offer support for people affected by sexual assault and sexual abuse,” said junior Amy Holpuch. “It’s sometimes difficult for victims to come forward, but the confidential hotline makes it easier to get help.”
A strong program with the YWCA is Stepping Stones, which provides 24-hour assistance for sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors—both men and women— and their families in the area.
Stepping Stones seeks to empower survivors and families, build friendships and educate the community about sexual assault. These services are free and confidential. They present information about sexual assault, date rape drugs, dating violence and rape culture. Stepping Stones provides counseling, medical and legal advocacy and prevention education.
In order to become a certified volunteer with Stepping Stones, students need to complete 40 hours of training in scheduled sessions. To set up training, contact Elizabeth Rardin at (309) 662-0461.
“I started volunteering at the YWCA my sophomore year at IWU, and I am so grateful for the experience. I’ve learned so much from the program, which allowed me to spread awareness of the issue and provide support,” said junior Stephanie Dizon.
The YWCA has also posted a list of risk reduction tips. They urge college students to know their limits with alcohol, use the buddy system, keep doors and windows locked and be cautious revealing personal information in public.
“I think it is so important for the community to be aware of different support systems. An astonishing number of people are sexually assaulted each year on college campuses,” said junior Molly Willeford. “People need to know where the support can be found. I think that what the YWCA is doing a wonderful job and definitely is taking a step in the right direction for aiding those who experience sexual assault.”
The McLean County YWCA is located at 1201 N. Hershey Road in Bloomington, and their 24-hour hotline is (800) 570-7284. Their doors are always open to anyone in need.