A Hampshire County center is working to prevent sexual violence

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – A trial of a UMass Amherst student charged with rape started Wednesday in Hampshire County Superior Court. Later this year, another trial is set to begin this summer for four men accused of gang raping a UMass student on campus.

22News found out what they’re doing to to prevent sexual violence in Hampshire County.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Center for Women and Community is holding workshops to teach people about proper consent and prevention, but their most important message is: “Don’t be afraid to say something.”

“Why did she do that? Why did she drink that? Why did she go out with him? Those are things that silence people,” Becky Lockwood, Associate Director of Counseling and Rape Crisis told 22News.

The Justice Department estimates  60 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults are never reported, and the victims suffer in silence. But one Hampshire County center hopes to change that with education and easy access to counseling.

Jill Grimaldi from the Center for Women and Community said, “You know, something as simple as, if you hear something making a comment that makes light of rape or makes fun of survivors, say something. You don’t know who’s going to be around hearing that comment and might feel supported by you stepping in.”

The Center for Women and Community at UMass Amherst has a phone line that is open 24/7. Anyone can call the hotline to report incidents or simply to talk to someone.

“Our goal is really just to support and provide a lot of options. There’s no right way to heal or wrong way to heal. But I do think disclosing it, not keeping it secret, and being able to talk honestly with someone about what happened is really important,” said Lockwood.

According to the most recent UMass Security Report, Campus Police investigated 15 sexual assaults on campus in 2012.

The hotline is open for everyone in Hampshire County, not just UMass.

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