One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the county’s largest anti-sexual assault nonprofit. 

Equally sobering is a statistic from the American Academy of Pediatrics that one in seven children have experienced abuse or neglect in the last year. 

And over 10,000 children are abused and/or neglected in Georgia each year, according to a city of Watkinsville proclamation for child abuse prevention month. 

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) Executive Director Michelle Dickens said crimes against women and children happen everywhere—in poor communities and also higher socioeconomic counties like Oconee County. 

In the past month, The Oconee Enterprise has reported on a child who was violently struck with an object, a man sentenced for the possession and distribution of child pornography and another man who sexually assaulted an incapacitated woman with dementia. 

Last month, several government agencies—Sheriff’s Office, Watkinsville Police Department, county employees, Division of Family and children Services—joined SANE to observe what was both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. 

In addition to a proclamation reading in front of the Oconee County Courthouse, dozens of people placed blue pinwheels in the grassy area facing the front parking lot to signify the county’s efforts in reducing child abuse. Attendees also wore jeans to combat victim blaming and educate others about sexual violence. The tradition of Denim Day on April 26 dates back to a 1998 case in Italy, in which a judge threw out a rape case because of what the victim was wearing. 

“It was an outrage,” said Dickens. “Women of parliament showed up in blue jeans in protest.” 

Dickens is having robust conversations with school officials, county leaders and the public about victim blaming, consent and identifying trauma. 

Oconee County recently signed an agreement with SANE to bring training into Oconee County Emergency Management, which includes emergency rescue, Oconee Fire Rescue and Animal Services. 

“The purpose was to formalize a partnership between these agencies to provide direct services to those exposed to trauma, to support training and technical assistance efforts, and to assist each other when responding to traumas both related and unrelated to abuse and neglect,” said Dickens. 

For more on this story, see the May 11 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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