Local groups host open dialogue about sexual assault - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Local groups host open dialogue about sexual assault

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -

It started with the viral hashtag, #metoo. Now, it's hitting closer to home.

"For the first time, we're seeing two things that have not happened before," said Marta Miranda-Straub, President & CEO of The Center for Women and Families in Louisville. "Rapists are being held accountable. Employers are not tolerating their behavior."

On Thursday night, The Center held a community conversation about sexual assault. A panel of local experts and survivors shared their stories.

"It's not just a number anymore," said Regina Vargo, a sexual assault survivor.

Vargo said the best way someone can support a victim is to say, "I believe you," though she said she gets mixed feelings about the recent movement.

"It's inspirational to hear that other women and men are finally coming forward to talk about their stories," she said. "But it's also kind of sickening, because you're putting faces and names to those numbers."

According to the Office of Kentucky's Attorney General, one in two women will experience a sex crime and workplace harassment. Additionally, less than half of sexual assault cases are reported to law enforcement. Of those, just 3 percent result in a conviction.

"In Kentucky, 47 percent of women will experience some kind of sex crime in their lifetime," said Gretchen Hunt with Kentucky Attorney General's Office of Victim's Advocacy.

To change that statistic, the AG's office is working with local crisis centers and training law enforcement to better deal with sex crimes cases.

"What we (as a community) need to do is flip the script of those rapists and believe survivors when they come forward and support them," Hunt said.

Meanwhile, experts say the public must keep abusers accountable.

"People are getting fired, people are resigning, people are acknowledging and saying that was wrong of me to do or companies saying we have zero tolerance, this cant happen," Miranda-Straub said. "Then, (survivors) have the freedom and the space to say -- me too."

For victims of assault in Kentuckiana, the Center for Women & Families hotline number is 1-844-237-2331. Calls are confidential, can be anonymous, and available 24/7. For more information, click here.

The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline, 800-656-HOPE (4673), will connect callers with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

The Office of the Attorney General has a survivors council to advise and assist with awareness and training efforts. To learn more, click here

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