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Sexual assault services ready to help

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It's an unfortunate truth: you don't know they're there until you fall victim.

They conduct outreach, awareness, education, and training - in hopes you never have to avail of them. "It is a problem that practically affects in my opinion, every household. What's more important is that people receive the services," said Cynthia Cabot, the director of the Guam Coalition Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence. According to data from January through July 2014, 47 total cases were reported: 12 victims of stalking, 23 victims of family violence, and 12 victims of criminal sexual conduct.

Unfortunately, these numbers likely don't reflect an accurate count, sometimes because victims don't even know they've fallen victim to such crimes. "Perhaps it's a situation where it's accepted or it is a situation that they may have grown up with," she added. "Or it's a situation where they find no one is correcting the behavior. And so, of course, people don't realize they're in that kind of situation."

This is only one of many reasons why most cases go unreported, with Cabot adding, "We're probably not going to be able to see the numbers. Because the numbers probably only reflect about 20% of the cases that go report. And consistent with national statistics, 80% go unreported. So that's also a great concern for us."

Recently, the coalition invited stakeholder input - what they call a listening session. "So it is our effort to work together with our community partners, our stakeholders to come together to say okay we know the problem is out there, what else can we do to reach out to the community to see what the needs are and how we can do our part," she said.

The participating stakeholders included Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guam, Erica's House, the Bureau of Support Services Administration, Catholic Social Services, Healing Hearts, the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities, and even the military.

Their input will be used to help the coalition prepare for one of their biggest events of the year, with Cabot explaining, "We continue on with this effort and we're looking at this as a way to prepare for our upcoming conference in October. October is Family Violence Awareness Month. So of course we're planning ahead, looking at how else we can reach out to the community and what else can we draw to one's attention."

For more information on the Guam Coalition Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence, call 479-2277 or visit their Facebook page.

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