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May 27, 2018
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Cotati recognizes April as sexual assault awareness month

  • The Cotati City Council, Vice Mayor John Dell'Osso, Council Member Susan Harvey and Council Member John C. Moore, recognized Kat Nguyen, David Kruse and Katie Donohoe of Verity with a proclamation for their efforts on sexual assault awareness. Robert Grant

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
April 13, 2018

At Tuesday evening’s Cotati City Council meeting council members and Mayor Mark Landman issued a proclamation recognizing April 2018 as sexual assault awareness month, stating that the city will reaffirm its actions to work with the community to bring awareness and education on sexual violence prevention and aid for survivors.

According to Cotati Police Department’s latest police logs from March 30 to April 5, there were no calls regarding instances of sexual assault. However, there have been several instances of rape and sexual assault in 2016 on and off the campus of Sonoma State University. And while the Cotati Police Department did not have any recent police logs mentioning sexual assault, cases often go unreported and there were also several at SSU, making this ever-prevalent issue important for the City of Cotati to recognize and bring awareness to.

The Sonoma State University Clery Report cited nine cases of rape, five occurring on campus and four off campus in 2016. There were no reported cases of fondling or incest, however, there was one case of statutory rape on public property in 2016.

As for Cotati’s neighbor Rohnert Park, there were 31 cases of forcible rape this past year according to the department’s summary of Part I and II crimes. There were also 176 cases of aggravated assault, but it’s not specified how many of these cases were sexual assault. 

While the statistics may not provide a complete picture of how many sexual assault crimes are committed in Cotati, according to “The Nation,” reported rape occurs every 6.2 minutes in the United states and 5.6 million women in California are estimated to be victims of other forms of sexual assault, according to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Genevieve H., a human trafficking victim advocate at Verity, a non-profit in Sonoma County that offers a 24/7 crisis line and other resources for victims of sexual assault, says there are often cases of trafficking and sexual violence under our noses, we just do not always notice it.

“I know recently just in this area, we’ve had a lot of victims of human trafficking and that is one of the pieces of work that we do in reaching out to those victims and seeing how we can get them out of that life,” Genevieve said at the neighboring Rohnert Park City Council Meeting.  “We also work with victims of sexual assault and we are also trying to educate people all over Sonoma County about how sexual assault is relevant to our neighborhood. A lot of the times people don’t realize that it is in front of us and they think that they are exempt but anyone can be a victim of human trafficking.”

Hence the aim of Cotati’s proclamation is to bring more awareness and prevention to these crimes. 

“We must work together to educate our community on sexual violence prevention, support for survivors and speaking out against harmful actions and whereas with leadership and dedication, there is evidence that we could be successful in preventing sexual violence in the City of Cotati through increased education… including conversations on what sexual violence is and how every segment of our society can work together to address this issue,” Vice Mayor John Dell’Osso read from the proclamation. 

Counselors from Verity were also present during the meeting to accept the proclamation and be recognized for their work with survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking.

Katie Donohoe is a sexual assault victim outreach advocate and focuses on the homeless community outreach and aid. “Thank you so much for honoring us, your support means a lot,” she said. Kat Nguygen, a guidance counselor and David Kruse of Verity were also present to accept the proclamation.

Council member Susan Harvey thanked the team for providing such important services and praised them for their work with survivors. “Thank you for all of the work that you’ve done. We’ve just honored the dispatchers and in some sense the kind of work you do is being first responders to people who have had horrible things done to them, so we appreciate that (work), it takes a special individual to do that.”

Rohnert Park also recognized April 2018 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and had one of their other counselors, Genevieve H., human trafficking victim advocate and also thanked the council for their recognition and mentioned that the scope of  the work Verity does is very important to those who need it.

“Our agency values our work that we do in helping victims in our community,”said Genevieve.