Every year in La Plata County, law enforcement receives dozens of reports of sexual assault cases. Each case is different than the next. Several factors are part of every case – factors that, when separated out, shine a light on a universal culture that for too long has perpetuated violence time and time again.
Numbers, of course, don’t tell a complete story. They are a small but complex piece of a larger narrative about sexual assault – in our country and our county. Also, not all incidents are reported to law enforcement. But they are a starting point for discussion. They help us to understand that sexual violence is one of the greatest public health issues we face. Every sexual assault chips away at the health and safety of our community. Media stories elicit a range of emotions that leave people stunned, raw and outraged. And they should.
We are feeling especially raw as the seemingly endless news about sexual misconduct comes at a swift pace and as the “me too” movement gains momentum. It appears it won’t stop. And it shouldn’t.
In our community, we recently saw strangers gather in silence in solidarity with another stranger, when they learned about an act of sexual violence. That it might not be the last time such a gesture is needed is a reality that we must acknowledge.
We must also acknowledge that sexual violence is what our community must keep talking about, in private and in public. The stories go beyond the statistics; there are also stories about prevention efforts, allies, advocates, education, cultural change, accountability, rehabilitation, surviving and healing.
This is why The Durango Herald is bringing our readers, starting today, an ongoing series of columns written by people in our community who either work in the realm of sexual assault prevention and education or are survivors or allies. Their work and experiences are often best told in their own voices. We will publish a column in print every Saturday throughout December. We also will publish additional online-only columns at durangoherald.com/sexual-assault.
This column series begins with Maura Demko, executive director of Sexual Assault Services Organization – the foremost agency in La Plata County to provide services to victims. Demko gives us a small glimpse of the critically important work SASO does in our community.
Thank you for reading.