How victim advocates say people can help prevent sexual violence and where survivors can get help

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SPRINGETTSBURY TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. --  Victims' advocates are saying events like the Harrisburg diocese announcing child sex abuse can spur emotional trauma in survivors of sexual violence.

They are reminding people that there are ways to prevent sexual violence and a number of resources available for victims.

At Turning Point Counseling and Advocacy Center in York County, therapists see women and men who've experienced childhood sexual abuse.

Its website reads, "In addition to providing counseling services, we educate our community on important aspects of sexual abuse, and advocate for survivors’ rights."

Turning Point is located at 2100 East Market Street in York.

In terms of prevention, experts say parents need to take their children seriously and have very frank conversations about their bodies and what is and isn't okay.

"First of all, we have to understand, sadly, that we need to start changing our mindset to where there is a child, there is a predator. It's really a sad statement to wrap your head around, but sadly, it's a reality," said Kristen Phautz-Woolley, the director and founder of Turning Point.

Kristen says it starts with meaningful conversations - what's appropriate behavior from an adult and what's not.

"Who should touch your body, and why," said Phautz-Woolley. "If something doesn't feel right, you tell mom or dad."

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) perpetrators of sexual violence will blur boundaries, give a child attention, and gain their trust long before abuse occurs.

When they are finally accused, it can have a powerful impact on their victims.

"On one hand, it may be a sense of relief and maybe even for some people, it might be a feeling of happiness that finally people are believing them. Some people may be experiencing anger and rage," said Joyce Lukima, Chief Operating Officer, PCAR.

"We need to be cognizant of that. We need to show compassion. We need to say, 'How can I support you now," said Phautz-Woolley.

There are more than a dozen centers in Pennsylvania for victims of sexual abuse. Experts say it may just take some time before a survivor is ready to get help.

"Part of the healing process is to take the control back. Give yourself compassion. If you're not ready to speak, it's your story, and whoever you're going to share it with needs to earn the right to hear your story," added Phautz-Woolley.

Here is a list of all the rape crisis centers listed by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Or visit PCAR.ORG for more information.

Call 1-888-772-7227 to contact a rape crisis center in Pennsylvania near you.

You can call or email Turning Point at 717-755-TURN (8876) or info@turningpointwomen.org.

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