BELLEFONTE — At their meeting Tuesday, each county commissioner had two ribbons pinned to his jacket.
The teal and blue adornments matched the nearly 900 ribbons hanging from two trees outside the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte — the teal representing the number of sexual assault victims who came forward last year in the county, and the blue quantifying the number of child abuse investigations.
And the 481 teal ribbons and 388 blue ones likely don’t paint an accurate picture of the scope of the problem.
“Sexual abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in the country, and that’s because people who are sexually abused are very afraid to come forward,” said Jody Althouse, outreach director at the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.
In an effort to reverse that trend, April is again officially Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Centre County as voted on by the board Tuesday.
To mark the month, the county is offering free mandated reporter training and is holding events such as Paint for Prevention, which is set for April 20 at the Nittany Mall.
The event will allow anyone interested to help paint a mural under the tutelage of a professional artist. The painting then will be submitted to the new Children’s Advocacy Center in Bellefonte when it opens in June or July. Anyone who participates will be encouraged to sign the back of the painting.
Althouse said the main focus for the month at the Women’s Resource Center is educating people that consensual sex means that both parties are given permission, and if a woman is “drunk out of her mind” that permission can’t be given. She said that is how many sexual assaults take place, especially in Centre County.
The center also will be at the downtown State College nightclub Indigo selling T-shirts and distributing information about sexual assault.
“Sexual abuse needs to stop, and the only way for it to stop is for rapists to stop raping,” she said.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.