Clotheslines strung up on the Grayson County Courthouse lawn Tuesday carried garments that ranged from the tiny shoes of a toddler to a flowing white wedding dress. The beautiful clothes were used to draw attention to an ugly problem — sexual assault.
Each of the items on the clotheslines represented what a Texan was wearing when he or she was sexually assaulted.
“We are really working to highlight what sexual assault looks like in our community,” Grayson Crisis Center Community Education Coordinator Mickinzie VanHerpen said Tuesday as she helped to put up the display.
VanHerpen said the display was meant to help people realize just who the victims of sexual assault are in this area.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about it (being) young women — young sexually promiscuous women who are getting sexually assaulted and it’s not,” VanHerpen said. “It’s our elderly. It’s our children. It’s our teenagers. And it is middle-aged people as well.”
She said another thing the Crisis Center’s employees really want people to understand is the relationship between the victim and the assailant.
“There’s another big misconception that it’s the boogeyman in the bushes and the strangers and it’s not,” VanHerpen said. “At least 70 percent of the time, it’s someone that the victim knew.”
She said the point was really to clue the community in on what the problem is and what resources are here locally to help.
So far in 2019, VanHerpen said, the Crisis Center has served 12 new primary sexual assault victims. In all of 2018, she said, the center served 61. VanHerpen wasn’t sure how that 61 compared to the previous year, as the organization doesn’t have complete numbers for 2017.
“That’s more than one a week,” VanHerpen said of 2018’s total. “We hope that not only do they take away the awareness that this (sexual assault) is here in our community but that they take away the conversation.”
VanHerpen said talking about the issue makes it more visible to the community and more relatable. The Grayson County Commissioners Court approved a proclamation Tuesday declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the county.