Saturday, April 8, 2017

Officials: April is ‘Sexual Assault Awareness Month’

BELLEFONTE — Sexual violence is a widespread issue and Centre County officials want the community to see that it can play a role in creating change.

During their Tuesday morning meeting, the Centre County Commissioners voted to declare April as “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” in order to bring awareness in the local community. April is also “Child Abuse Prevention Month,” which the Center County Women’s Resource Center also plans to shed light on during the month.

Next Monday, April 10, there will be a sexual assault and child abuse awareness program called “Engaging New Voices” held on the steps of the Centre County Courthouse. The event, which takes place at noon, will honor survivors of sexual assault, engage new voices in the community and recognize community members who have made a difference in the fight against sexual assault.

Speakers at the event will include the Honorable Pamela Ruest, President Judge Thomas Kistler; Chief John Gardner and Detective Chris Weaver from the State College Police Department; Ali Warren Rothrock, sexual assault survivor, author, speaker and advocate; and members of the Guardians of the Children group from Altoona.

“We’re really being intentional about bringing new groups in to talk about how we can change the culture around sexual assault,” McKee said.

Rothrock is the founder of Hopes Lives Publishing and wrote the book entitled “Where Hope Lives.” During the event, McKee said that Rothrock will talk about her experience overcoming the trauma of sexual assault.

Members of the Guardians of the Children, a motorcycle group that works to raise awareness around child abuse, will speak at the event about what their group does and how they support children through both the court system and the healing process.

During the event, Kistler will be recognized for being instrumental in the development of the Center County Child Access Center, McKee said. Since 2008, the center has provided safe, monitored custody exchanges, and it now also offers supervised visitation services.

Another individual in the community who has made a big difference is Weaver, who will also be honored and recognized during the event, McKee said. Weaver is the county’s sexual assault detective, and over the past several years, he has been responsible for implementing new policies and procedures to both increase safety for victims of sexual assault and hold offenders accountable.

In other county business, a lead consultant has been chosen for the 2.5-mile Bellefonte to Milesburg Trail feasibility study. After looking at eight proposals, the five-member committee created to select an engineering firm has chosen Pittsburgh firm Pashek & MTR, according to Mike Bloom, county senior transportation planner. The feasibility study will help determine a facility type and preferred alignment of the trail, as well as document expected environmental, historic, prehistoric and cultural impacts.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the proposal to have the firm lead the trail study, with a $84,750 contract. Last December, the commissioners approved a $70,500 grant agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Supervised Visitation Services Seattle. A nine-donor local match commitment of $15,300 has also been made.

The plan is to start the study in early May and wrap it up next January, Bloom said. The proposed study area for the trail is between SR 144/155 and the SEDA-COG Railroad, following Spring Creek and the former canal.

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