Shelby Mitchell, a sexual assault victim advocate from Safe Haven in Shawano, did not realize how hard it was to belly dance until she had a chance to try it during the organization’s annual fundraiser, Dance Back the Night, in April.
“I think overall it went very well,” she said of the event on April 17. “We had some great performers that danced for us.”
The event was filled with a variety of dance performances as well as silent auction and raffle.
Mitchell said the event is a creative way to raise funds for the organization as well as raise awareness about domestic abuse and sexual assault. April also marks Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The event included awareness messages from Mitchell and Menominee Shelter Manager, Kim Hoffman. ThedaCare, through the Shawano Community Health Action Team, donated $1,000 because the event supports mental health.
Mitchell said this is the fourth year the organization has held Dance Back the Night. The idea came from Korina Pubanz, a sexual assault nurse examiner, or SANE, who was involved in a similar fundraising event in Stevens Point and wanted to bring it to Shawano. The SANE nurse was also a belly dancer, which added an element of fun to the event. “As a whole agency we ate it up,” said Mitchell.
This recent event raised over $1,600, which the agency will use to support shelter programs. Safe Haven is a domestic violence and sexual assault support center. It also provides a 24-bed emergency shelter. Advocates help victims “focus on some of their goals and work on housing and employment” needs, said Mitchell.
In 2014, Safe Haven provided services to 107 sexual assault clients, safe housing to 49 women and 58 children, answered 2,155 crisis calls, provided services to 510 victims (365 women, 31 men and 114 children), completed 798 safety plans with victims and 102 children. The agency provides one-on-one advocacy, legal advocacy, support groups and community education and prevention education in the schools.
Awareness is important in preventing sexual assault and domestic violence as well as child abuse, said Mitchell. Shawano is not immune to those issues so Safe Haven needs to “put services in place to get survivors the support they need and hold offenders accountable whenever we get the opportunity to do that,” said Mitchell.
Friends and family can also help loved ones by recognizing signs of abuse. Signs of domestic child abuse and sexual assault can be very similar, said Mitchell, noting signs such as withdrawal, a change in eating habits, change in sleeping habits, changes in school, acting out or being passive, regression in development, fear of others and more.
Victims needs to be encouraged and supported to reach out to a family member or adult they know and trust. Advocacy programs like Safe Haven have resources for victims and family members of victims. “If someone does talk with us, it is really important to be supportive,” said Mitchell.
If it is a sexual assault and the victim wants to be checked out medically, they can talk with an advocacy program and see if they offer a SANE exam. Mitchell said SANE nurses are a registered nurse with 40 hours of additional training in forensic evidence training specific to a sexual assault.
“If a case was going to court, they know how to properly testify in court,” said Mitchell. “They’re very vital in a sexual assault to have that resource. They are also a very good support system. They are there to make sure you are medically and emotionally okay during that whole process. They work hand-in-hand with advocates as well.”
For more information about upcoming fundraising events or information about domestic abuse and sexual assault, call 715-526-3421.