CLINTON — When the YWCA announced last year it could no longer provide shelter or assistance to battered and abused women because of a statewide regionalization, the Clinton community was left with a void.

That void has been filled by Safe Path Survivor Resources, and in the month of April, which is sexual assault awareness month, it is making sure the people of the community are hearing its message.

Since April 1, 2014, Safe Path has provided assistance to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors in the Clinton area, but Violence Intervention Counseling Services Director Nicole Cisne Durbin admits there are still many people who don’t know where to turn in times of a crisis.

“The general community is still a bit confused about who is providing these services and it has been a confusing process,” Durbin said. “There are still things we’re working on and the feedback I’ve gotten is the people of Clinton know we’re here, they just don’t know how to find us.”

She feels the best way to raise the awareness about the organization is by becoming a strong figure in the community, and exposing the people of Clinton to the services provided through Safe Path.

And what a better time to do that, she said, than during sexual assault awareness month.

“Awareness months are big times for us because it’s out there and people are talking about it,” Durbin said. “What we need to make sure we are doing is continuing to stay involved in the community; continuing to stay visual so that people know where to come for help.”

That all begins with Take Back the Night. From 6 p.m. to around 7:15 Wednesday, guests attending the event at Ashford University will experience a multitude of activities, including a march against rape and sexual assault, firsthand narratives from survivors and a message from Durbin herself.

One of the most important things she wants to deliver during that message is hope and understanding — critical resources that Safe Path provides.

Whether it’s a survivor, family member or friend who comes to Safe Path for guidance, the first lesson taught is that of understanding.

“What we are working on right now is getting the faith-based leaders of the community trained in crisis support,” Durbin said. “It gives us that many more advocates in the community. Once people understand what a survivor is going through, it really changes the views from ‘why are you acting this way,’ to ‘what happened to you?’”

While April’s sexual assault awareness programs will provide a collection of education for people in the Gateway area, Durbin said it’s important the message she and the advocates at Safe Path deliver isn’t lost after the month ends.

In order to do so, the organization is increasing its efforts to recruit volunteers, spending more time at local events and getting involved with similar organizations and efforts in the community.

With a total staff of eight people, two therapists, four advocates, a volunteer coordinator and a supervisor, Durbin said those relationships are crucial to maintaining a strong support system for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.

“We try really hard to be as involved as we can with the resources that we have around us,” Durbin said. “Our goal is to create a community that’s really aware of these issues and knows, at least in some part, how to help. Most of the time, (survivors) just want someone to listen and believe them.”

The 24-hour Safe Path crisis line is 1-866-921-3354.

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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