Oscars spark local conversation on sexual assault

One out of every six women in the United States has been a victim of rape or attempted rape

Lady Gaga performs "Til It Happens To You" that is nominated for best original song from "The Hunting Ground" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Lady Gaga performs "Til It Happens To You" that is nominated for best original song from "The Hunting Ground" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s a sobering statistic – one out of every six women in the United States has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, according to the Rape Crisis Counseling Center. The issue was thrust into the spotlight Sunday night with Oscar performances targeting sexual assault.

“Till it Happens to You,” by Lady Gaga garnered a standing ovation. The song is from the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which takes a look at sexual assaults on college campuses.

The movie and its soundtrack are starting a conversation that’s not easy to talk about. Dawn Powell, with the Rape Crisis Counseling Center, was overwhelmed with emotion as she watched Lady Gaga’s performance. She says it was powerful because it was so real, especially since Lady Gaga says she was also a victim of sexual assault, and the artist was joined on stage with other survivors.

“The thing they have in common-and it’s not necessarily a good thing -but at the same time this is a good thing, this is support,” Powell said.

The Rape Crisis and Counseling Center is an arm of Compass Family and Community Services. It’s a resource for victims in the Valley, offering support and counseling. Agency representatives often meet their clients for the first time in the emergency room.

EXTRA INFORMATION: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A SEXUAL ASSAULT IS REPORTED?

“The effects of it, if it goes untreated, can destroy communities because of the trickledown effect,” Powell said.

Powell said the goal is to change the conversation about sexual assault in communities – calling on leaders such as YSU President Jim Tressel to encourage others to join the conversation.

RAPE CRISIS BROCHURE

Sojourner House sees first-hand the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Program Director Malinda Gavins said a lot of victims are not staying silent anymore.

“It’s good. I think for so long a lot of individuals have kept that information private,” Gavins said.

Gavins credits education and men and women sharing their stories, but says there is still a lot of work to be done.

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