SAN ANTONIO - Every 92 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network.That's why survivors, advocates and specialists are holding a public convention in San Antonio on Saturday, which will offer crucial information and conversations.
"I was Jane Doe, and I actually went public with my face. I had already went through months of being in hiding, and I felt I wasn't going to really be free, so I came forward," said Faith Rodgers, 21.
When Rodgers publicly said she'd been sexually assaulted, the stakes were unusually high.
"I got involved with R. Kelly. I did the documentary, the 'Surviving R. Kelly,' so my story aired on CNN over a year ago," she said.
The widely watched documetary spurred new charges against the rapper, who has denied all allegations.
Rodgers said the assault happened two years ago and said, in order to talk about it, she had to overcome shame and stigma.
"It goes back and forth between good and bad when you share your story. There are some people who want to help you, who are warm and receiving of your story, and there are some people who blame you for what happened," she said.
The stigma is something she plans to address Saturday at the unprecedented forum on sexual assault.
"Victim shaming, it definitely tore me apart, but now it's actually made me stronger. That's why I believe in speaking up, because you open a door for other people to come forward," Rodgers said.
The conference will be held at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where students have started the movement #ChangeRapeCulture.
"There have been some sexual assaults on the campus and stirred up a movement to say, 'Listen, we need to talk about it. We need to surround these women with love and compassion so that they are willing to come forth and tell their stories and seek justice,'" said Dr. Keely Petty, with the Bethel Prevention Coalition, which focuses on community health and substance abuse prevention.
Petty helped organize the forum to create an all-encompassing conversation about sexual assault. She believes in combining many different components that address the trauma of sexual assault.
"We've got to talk about the justice component. We've got to talk about advocating. And we've got to talk about emotional health, resiliency," she said.
The conference is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at UTSA's Buena Vista Auditorium at the downtown campus.
There will be audience-involved conversations, followed by several workshops.
One workshop will be led by forensic nurses from Methodist Hospital, who will explain how to preserve evidence of sexual assaults and how soon it needs to be turned in.
"They are going to give instructions on, for example, something as simple as what to wipe with and what not to wipe with, what kind of bag to put it in, how long that evidence should be held, how to contact the police and get law enforcement involved," Petty said.
Petty will be leading another workshop on the relationship between substance abuse and sexual assaults.
"Many college students end up in sexually assaultive situations because of alcohol and substance use, and then afterwards there is a use for substances to try to cope. There are other ways to manage that type of situation," she said.
The UTSA #ChangeRapeCulture movement will hold a workshop on activism and advocacy. They will explain how the public can get involved.
The whole event is free and open to the public.
"Sexual assault is not your name. It is something that has happened to you, and we can teach women and men how to move on into greatness," Petty said.
If you've been sexually assaulted, call 911 and then immediately call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
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