KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — April is recognized nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Knoxville law enforcement and the McNabb Center are showing their support for the cause. On Thursday April 1, the McNabb Center gave out more than 400 teal ribbon magnets for police vehicles to signify the support and recognition of sexual assault.
Catherine Oak is the director of victim services at McNabb. She said she is excited to see the teal ribbons around town, knowing that awareness and awareness will be brought to the forefront of conversation and helping survivors feel comfortable speaking out.
We want them to feel like our community is here to support them through their healing process and through the unfortunate, traumatic event that’s happened to them.Catherine Oak
The McNabb Center went to the University of Tennessee Police Department, Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to present the ribbons. With the ribbons being teal, they will be hard to miss.
Oak and the rest of the staff at the McNabb Center get excited for this time of year because they are able to “bring awareness to the community and that includes wearing our teal.” They also take advantage of the exposure to help start conversations about what it means to be sexually assaulted.
Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee Services Coordinator Brittany Thompson does all she can to get the word out about awareness and how important it is, as some may not be sure what it really means.
Sometimes they don’t even know the definition of rape or sexual assault.Brittany Thompson
With these ribbons being attached to police vehicles Thompson says it helps bring attention to public protectors supporting survivors.
“We put so much emphasis on believing the survivor and telling them ‘this was not your fault’ and I think that’s the first thing they need to hear,” she said.
While an emphasis may be placed on the immediate needs of victims, Thompson said the services are open to everyone.
“If they have been assaulted at some point in their life and it’s not been recent then we can also offer them the same type of services but also focus more on the therapeutic services” she said. “(We have) six full time therapists that serve the 12 counties that we are currently in and they can provide free therapy for any victim of any type of sexual violence.”
“We go to rehabilitation centers and mental health treatment facilities and provide general information … and that’s what I tell them. ‘Even if you haven’t been assaulted grab it, grab the number that way if someone you know has been you can just give that to them and they can get connected to us.'”
If you have been or know someone who has been sexually assaulted, call the 24/7 crisis hotline at 865-522-7273.