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Darien Puts Spotlight on Sexual Assault Awareness Month

DARIEN, Conn. – Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the country, and the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education is working to make people conscious of it and its effects. On Tuesday morning, the center and Darien officials proclaimed April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“We can create change by talking about the issue and knowing how to respond to victims,” said Ivonne Zucco, executive director of the center. The center counsels more than 500 victims of sexual assault every year and is involved in more than 80 criminal investigations.

Only 46 out of every 100 cases of sexual assault are reported, Zucco said, with only 12 leading to arrests and only three serving time in prison. “That leaves 97 individuals out there, committing the crime again and again.”

Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson read a proclamation, urging residents to participate in educational activities throughout the month. Events include a poster campaign to spread information about sexual assault and the center’s services, talks at high schools throughout Fairfield County and a gala April 26 to raise funds for the center.

Jessie Bekoe, a victim's advocate for the Stamford and Norwalk judicial districts, works as an intermediary between victims and the judicial system and also helps victims find therapy.

“The main thing is that the victim has multiple people to trust and to help them. The first thing to go out the window is trust, especially trust of strangers,” Bekoe said. She explains the justice process to the victims and makes sure they are emotionally stable so they can testify against their attackers.

Laura Cordes, executive director of the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services in Hartford, said sexual assault “doesn’t just happen. It’s not a disease; people choose to do this.”

One way that sexual assault can be prevented, she said, is to educate people and modify behaviors that lead to assaults. This can begin to be accomplished through classroom education, people holding each other accountable for their actions, and even not tolerating sexist or offensive jokes. She said we must not be a “culture of bystanders” and instead intervene on behalf of others so sexual assault does not happen.

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