PASSAGES Ramping Up Awareness, Fundraising Efforts for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, PASSAGES, Inc., Clarion County’s sexual violence advocacy and prevention organization, has a number of special fundraisers and virtual events happening this month.

(Pictured: PASSAGES, Inc. staff members in their Walk a Mile in Her Shoes shirts.)

Founded as Clarion County’s Rape Crisis Center in 1980, it expanded into Jefferson County in 1983, and changed its name to PASSAGES, an acronym for Prevention And Service For Sexual Assault through Guidance, Empowerment, and Support, in 1995. It further expanded into Clearfield County in 1998.

While the organization’s primary mission is advocating for the rights and needs of survivors of sexual violence while working to eliminate all forms of sexual violence by educating community members and promoting social change, it offers everything from individual and group counseling and a 24-hour hotline to legal and medical advocacy and sexual violence prevention and education programs.

Executive Director Marlene Austin told that like many other organizations, PASSAGES faced some challenges over the past year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We didn’t have our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event last year because of COVID,” she noted.

With the ongoing pandemic, they decided to make this year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event a virtual one. The event began on Sunday, March 28, and ended on Saturday, April 3.

“This has turned out well for the event. The last time we held it, two years ago, we tried to turn it into a fundraiser, but the participants were mostly college students, and most college students don’t have a lot of money,” Austin noted.

“This year we were able to get more people from the community involved, and it has been going really well.”

They had approximately 60 participants sign up, some individually, and some as teams, including several teams from Timberland Federal Credit Union in Clearfield County.

“They wanted to participate, and they’re really doing a lot, having kind of their own contest between the branches to raise money for us.”

A virtual ceremony for the Walk a Mile event is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on April 13. During the ceremony, there will be a short program about the services PASSAGES offers, a slide show of photos and a video sent in by participants, and awards announced for the individuals and teams who walked or ran the most distance and for those who raised the most money.

Another ongoing fundraiser for PASSAGES is the teal ribbon campaign. According to the National Sexual Violence Center, the teal ribbon was chosen as a symbol for sexual assault awareness in 2000. For this fundraiser, individuals can make a one-dollar donation (minimum) at a participating business and get a teal ribbon to sign which will then be hung up at the business. Participating businesses include Daddy’s Main Street, Cozumel, Michelle’s Cafe, Creative Kuts, Studio XIII, The Meadows, Valero, University Korner, and Hollenbaugh’s Hometown Meat Market.


According to Austin, Daddy’s Main Street in Clarion will also be featuring a special PASSAGES Charity Burger with a portion of the proceeds of each burger sold going to help support PASSAGES.

PASSAGES will also be featuring live-streamed “Afternoons with an Advocate” on their Facebook page at noon on Wednesdays in the month of April.

“This is geared toward adults, so we thought we would have them during lunch breaks,” Austin explained.

During these online events, advocates will discuss a variety of sexual assault topics, from violence against men to the history of sexual assault awareness month and why it is important.

“People can also tune in to ask questions. We want this to be very interactive.”

Austin noted that both the awareness and the fundraising are important, as statistically, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old, and on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States with an assault occurring every 98 seconds.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, and though anyone can become a victim of sexual violence, the overwhelming majority of survivors are women. NSVRC statistics show that 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female, and 9% are male.

Programs like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” and “Afternoons with an Advocate” seek to open the lines of communication about sexual violence in our communities and ultimately decrease the potential for violence.

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