Leyva Names Project Sister NonProfit of the Year
By Dianne Anderson
Beyond the textbook definition, sexual assault is barely mentioned in school, and parents and teachers are usually afraid to talk about it. Sex is still one of the most taboo topics in society.
“Sometimes we as adults have never had these conversations. Our parents may have never felt comfortable discussing sexual consent or relationships,” said Christina Jimenez, Project Sister Outreach Services Director.
Project Sister (Sisters In Service To End Rape) offers counseling and outreach with a 24-hour hotline, assistance to the hospital after the rape has occurred, and the program starts with young children about understanding sexual boundaries.
Recently, the program was honored by Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) as 2019 Nonprofit of the Year within California State Senate District 20 for their longtime community efforts to prevent sexual assault and child abuse.
Whenever asked, Project Sister goes out to speak within their service area about crisis intervention services. They offer age-appropriate education and discussion, but probably the first area they tackle is getting everyone comfortable with proper anatomical names.
“Now the parent knows – Oh, that’s what that’s called. That’s what the doctor calls it,” she said.
Even preschool age children are not too young to learn how to have a voice in communicating boundaries, she said. Today, one in four girls, and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. An estimated one-third of all rape and sexual abuse goes unreported, and the emotional scars are deep.
“We know survivors in general across the board are more likely to attempt suicide,” she said.
Of the 3.8 million high school students surveyed in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey for data collection, the Center Disease Control reports that one-fifth of all students say they’ve been bullied, and one in ten females said they were forced to have sex. The survey said that 7.4 percent of students reported having attempted suicide one or more times in the year prior to the survey, with females more at risk at 9.3 percent than males at 5.1 percent.
Jimenez also takes issue with the phrase “forced sex.” She believes that society needs to call it for what it is.
“Often, individuals will say, it was forced sex,” she said. “Well, forced sex is rape. Or, they’ll say it was non-consensual sex. Well, non-consensual sex is rape.”
Project Sister started in 1972, and now serves 24 cities with crisis intervention. They go with the victim to the hospital when they receive a forensic medical exam. They work with 19 law enforcement stations and five hospitals for the exams.
Through their curriculum, they also host presentations with parents about how to bring up the conversation with their children and teens.
The program starts with children as young as preschool about good touch and bad touch boundaries. From middle school to teens and high school up to college, the idea is to open conversations around healthy relationships.
Services are completely free. Coming up, a 40-hour training is opening up in July for anyone who wants to become a sexual assault advocate and work the 24-hour hotline.
Through their outreach, she said they are trying to educate as many people as possible, even if an assault has already happened. They link victims to services, help them share the message with others to begin to change the culture of rape and sexual assault in America.
“Will it be done in my lifetime or the lifetime of my children and grandchildren? Probably not, but it’s starting to make that change,” she said.
Jimenez said that Sen. Leyva continues to sponsor important legislation to address roadblocks in the justice system.
SB 22, introduced in May, calls to expedite the analysis of rape kits within 120 days of receipt to prevent backlogs, and help get rapists off the streets. SB 813, which passed in 2016, allows indefinite criminal prosecution and eliminates the statute of limitations on rape.
“It is so important that we lift up organizations like Project Sister that are working hard every single day to end sexual assault and the cycle of family violence that continue to plague our local communities. I commend the founders, leaders, staff and volunteers of this wonderful organization for their compassion and commitment to this righteous cause,” Sen. Leyva said in a release.