By Josette Keelor
By the age of 18, 1 in 4 U.S. women and 1 in 6 men will have been sexually assaulted.
It's a staggering statistic Jennifer Morrison, executive director of Response in Woodstock, said has been true for awhile. She repeated it recently to spread awareness.
Through the organization's new website, www.responseva.org, she said more area men and women in danger will have access to help.
The shorter Web address is easier to navigate than the previous one was and includes a hotlink visitors can click if they need to leave the site quickly. The hotlink diverts visitors to the Google home page.
"It's more user friendly," Morrison said.
The site also includes the Response Hotline phone number, 540-459-5161, and information for victims and concerned friends and family, such as how to recognize abuse and protect against it. Visitors can learn about volunteer opportunities and how to donate money, time or needed items to the Response Wish List.
Response, which according to its site is Shenandoah County's only agency assisting those affected by sexual and domestic violence and child abuse, was formed in 1980 by concerned residents to aid victims of domestic violence and their children.
Morrison said Response has been teaming with area doctors to question potential victims during office visits and routine checkups.
"Doctors can usually get conversations in there," she said. "It would be appropriate to ask someone, you know, 'Have you ever been violated?'"
"Most people would not find that an awkward question, especially if you're in for a checkup," she said.
Morrison said the Shenandoah Valley closely matches the national average of abuse victims, but that Shenandoah County's health resources rely on independent organizations like Response to offer support for victims of sexual violence.
Shenandoah Memorial Hospital doesn't have a forensics nurse examiner on call, so staff members refer victims of sexual assault to Winchester Medical Center, said Kim Shrum, emergency department nurse manager.
"We arrange for them to have the best possible treatment that's available," she said.
But Morrison said even following treatment in Winchester, "another organization like us will be called out."
"That's not a good sign," Morrison explained. "We're hoping to partner with our local health care providers to figure out who can provide family planning and partner with us."
One in 5 women is a survivor of rape, the national campaign No More reports at nomore.org. Half of all women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lives. In a year, 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The new Response website launched on March 1, and Morrison said so far it's had good feedback.
"A lot of people say they really like it and it's easier to maneuver," she said. "We've sort have been testing out some of the bugs and we feel pretty good about it now."
She encourages visitors to sign up for updates, including the monthly electronic newsletter.
"That would help us definitely reach more people."
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org>