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Annual 5K highlights 22nd Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Center for the Prevention of Abuse (CFPA) is hosting its 6th annual I Run With Survivors 5K on Saturday, April 8 in the Levee District to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month and demonstrate the Peoria organization's dedication to those seeking shelter and help from abuse.

The 5K will begin at 8 a.m. and is a family-friendly event along a stroller-friendly route. The event will feature T-shirts, refreshments, photo opportunities, and an Easter egg hunt.

Carol Merna, CEO of CFPA, said Sexual Assault Awareness Month is important to promote because it helps educate community members on how to support survivors.

“Seeing this race and seeing a couple hundred people come out, everybody's wearing teal and being supportive of the cause, makes a difference to people supporting survivors is key,” said Merna, noting “one in six women and one in 33 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes.”

Merna also said there is a quiet tolerance that goes along with sexual assault, which is why the rates of assault remain high.

“People are afraid to report, people are ashamed to report. And if we could encourage everybody to just refuse to accept what is unacceptable, we would be much better off than we were,” she said, “Last year, and in the years before, we could say that sexual assault happened around every 98 to 92 seconds in America. And now it's every 68 seconds. So we know that it is a very serious problem.”

The Center for Prevention of Abuse provides free, confidential services for a variety of needs, including shelter, therapy, protection, and more.

“We want them to know that we believe you and we're here for you, and we're going to find out what you need. And we're going to do everything that we can to make that happen,” Merna said.

For more information regarding support services, visit centerforpreventionofabuse.org.

Isabela Nieto is a student reporting intern at WCBU. Isabela is also a student at Bradley University in Peoria.