Free workshop “shines light” on sexual assault

NORWICH – Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a campaign that is very important to the Crime Victims Program here at Catholic Charities of Chenango County. The banner hanging on the front of Howard Johnson’s shows the teal ribbon symbol. The purpose of this year’s campaign by the Crime Victims Program is to shine a light of awareness on the complicated issues of Sexual Assault in our county.

On Friday, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the YMCA Community Room, nationally acclaimed and local Willow Artist, Bonnie Gale, will conduct a free workshop in lantern making. Chenango Lanterns of Light Workshop is a creative and fun family event for young and old. The workshop time will commence with a PowerPoint presentation of lantern making techniques and parades in other countries. Working with willow sticks and masking tape, participants will individually, or in pairs, construct the framework for a lantern. The lantern is then covered with paper and a light is installed. At about 8.45 p.m., the newly constructed lanterns will be lit outside in a small ceremony. This workshop is appropriate for all ages. It is simple and a lot of fun. Refreshments will be served and all the supplies are free of charge. Participants just need to call 334-8244 to register for the free event.

The goal of this workshop is to bring about awareness in a new and creative way through the making of lanterns of light. The integration of arts into the learning curriculum of other subjects in schools has been successfully applied and it is acknowledged that the arts can be a most effective medium for learning and awareness where other methods fail. Similarly, the arts can make changes societally by bringing new freedoms of expression and thought. In this case, hands-on making of lanterns of light have the potential to make the connection between vessels of light in the dark reaches of sexual assault.

A true paradox exists in our social environment. On one hand, we see an ever-expanding media trend to sexualize children and women. On the other hand, we witness societal outrage over child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault. There is public outcry out when/if a registered sex offender tries to move in to a neighborhood. The media creates a panic atmosphere by sensationalizing “stranger danger” sex crimes, as if the perpetrator of such crimes is not known to the victim. Statistics indicate that in child sexual abuse, 93 percent of victims know the person who abused them, over 34 percent are family members and 59 percent are acquaintances such as friends of family, neighbors, teachers and other individuals connected to both the victim and often the victim’s family.

In adult sexual assault, up to 90 percent of victims knew the offender as an acquaintance, friend, relative, or intimate partner. These close connections between the victim and the perpetrator do fit the “Stranger Danger” media attention and likely have much to do with the fact that sexual assault continues to be the single most underreported crime in the United States. We would like to believe that it is a stranger that is the real danger. It is harder to accept the reality that we have to be conscious of our own family and neighbors.

Please come attend this free workshop at the Norwich YMCA on Friday night. Come feel a part of the greater Chenango community and make a wonderful lantern. This event promises to be one that will be talked about for a while. Bring your whole family. We hope, in future years, that we may obtain funding to have a lantern festival and parade in Norwich and in other parts of Chenango County. Let us know how to contact you so we can be in touch.

June McIntyre-Georgia and Bonnie Gale

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