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Raising sex assault awareness

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In Utah, rape is the only category of violent crime in which the Utah rate exceeds the national average. A comprehensive report issued in 2005 by the state's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in projects one in eight Utah women will be raped.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Rape Recovery Center of Utah and other community organizations have planned events in observance of the month. Most notably, Utah will host the highly acclaimed multi-media performance, "SOARS: Story of a Rape Survivor," to be presented Friday at the Rose Wagner Center.

Stories of sexual assault are grabbing headlines — from allegations against pastors, chiropractors and massage therapists to "hazing" incidents in schools and reports of rising sexual harassment within the military, according to the Rape Recovery Center.

But the bulk of sexual violence incidents do not make the news. One in three women in Utah will experience some form of sexual violence in her lifetime.

"The people of Utah have the power to collectively put a stop to sexual violence through awareness, advocacy and action," the center's officials said in a press release.

"Participation can help create an environment where men, women and children are safe in their relationships, homes, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces," wrote the center's executive director, Heather Stringfellow.

The SOARS event is part of a week's worth of activities designed toward this end. The following is a calendar of events:

• April 1 — "Expressions of Healing: Words and Images Healing the Impact of Sexual Assault." The RRC invites survivors, friends and anyone impacted by sexual violence to join others in a creative evening of art-making at the Rape Recovery Center, 2035 S. 1300 East, from 6:30—8:30 p.m. No art experience is needed. Art boards/tiles and a variety of materials will be provided.

• April 4 — "Healing Through Works: Sexual Assault Activism" and "Beyond Black and White: Race Rape and the Popular Culture." This is a two-part workshop to take place from 9-11:45 a.m. at the Rose Wagner Center for advocates and professionals working in the field of sexual violence. A $25 donation includes entrance to Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault's awards luncheon at noon.

• April 4: "SOARS: Story of a Rape Survivor." SOARS is a two hour performance about one woman's journey to reclaim her body, sexuality, spirituality, and self-esteem after being sexually assaulted in college.

Performed by a diverse cast of women and featuring photographs taken by her sister during the recovery process, SOARS uses modern dance, spoken-word and music to educate the public about sexual violence and ease the shame, guilt and self-blame that rape victims too often feel with a story of hope and healing.

The event is free and open to the public at 7 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South in Salt Lake City.

• April 17: "Working with Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse." A brown bag lunch with Jim Struve, LCSW. Held at Rape Recovery Center at noon.

• April 17: "United Voices from Latin America." Information about sexual assault in countries of Latin America and demonstrations of music, culture and food. Free and open to the public at the Rape Recovery Center, 6—8 p.m.

• April 25 — "pARTy for Rape Recovery." This event will include a silent auction and reception, a live auction, elegant fare and delightful drinks. Proceeds to benefit Rape Recovery Center. Held at Westminster College's Emma Eccles Jones Conservatory from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50.

For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month events, call 467-7282 or check www.saamutah2008 .com.

The nonprofit Rape Recovery Center was founded in 1975 to empower those victimized by sexual violence through advocacy, crisis intervention and therapy and to educate the community about the cause, impact and prevention of sexual violence.

E-mail: lucy@desnews.com