April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Each year, the Victim Service Center of Central Florida has several activities to bring awareness to sexual violence and its prevention. As the only certified sexual assault program in Orange County, the VSC’s mission is to provide comprehensive services and resources to victims of sexual assault, violent crime, and tragic circumstances through crisis response, advocacy, therapy, and community awareness.
This year, the Victim Service Center, along with the Avalon Park Foundation, present Ride to Reach, VSC’s signature event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Ride to Reach was inspired by the true story of Diana Oakley, survivor, and volunteer/chair of the VSC Speakers Bureau.
Ride to Reach is a 17-mile bicycle, three-mile walk/bicycle outreach event taking place on Saturday, April 28 at 9:30 a.m. at the Avalon Park Amphitheatre. The Victim Service Center will provide information on services that are free to the community. Diana Oakley will also be present to share how April 28 is the 21st anniversary of her attack and this bicycle event represents the first time she has ridden her bike in all those years. Along with Diana will also be her attacker’s ex-wife and daughter. The ex-wife was instrumental in leading to the capture of Diana’s rapist and kidnapper. There will also be entertainment via a DJ and musician as well as vendors providing information about their services. Diana will be having a book signing at 12:15 p.m. Proceeds from the sale of her book “Intended Harm”, will go to the Victim Service Center of Central Florida.
The Victim Service Center relies heavily on grants and donations to provide 24-hour services to victims of sexual assault. A trained sexual assault counselor is always available via our hotline at 407-497-6701 to provide immediate crisis intervention, information and resources, advocacy and accompaniment, education on victim’s rights, victim compensation, as well as any other needs the victim may need in order to facilitate recovery. The Victim Service Center needs your support to continue to provide our services. This month alone, $1.5 million in funding appropriated for statewide sexual assault services was cut via a line-item veto process.
Recent data from the Center for Disease Control shows that almost one in six Florida women has already been the victim of rape. More than 1.2 million adult women in Florida have already experienced rape, and more than 3.1 million have experienced some form of sexual violence short of penetration. The same report also indicates that more than 1.4 million Florida men have experienced some form of sexual violence.
The VSC sees these women, girls, boys, and men who have been recently raped or sexually abused long ago and who still suffer from the impact of the assault on their lives and the lives of their families.
Victims who do not receive recovery services are more likely to have substance abuse problems, mental illness, separation from employment, lower educational attainment, and are at greater risk of suicide. Without services, the societal costs far exceed $1.5 million, while the toll in personal suffering is incalculable.
Please join the Victim Service Center and Avalon Park Foundation at Ride to Reach and help raise awareness about sexual violence and how to prevent it.