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Rape Crisis Center director says sexual assault affects too many lives

In a packed meeting room this month just north of Fremont Street’s glittering lights, Daniele Dreitzer was blunt about sexual assault.

“Given the size of this crowd, more than likely one or more people in the crowd has been directly affected by sexual violence,” said Dreitzer, the executive director of the local Rape Crisis Center.

A few people nodded their heads quietly. Others glanced around the room. Most stared at her, listening.

“We realize that it’s not always easy to talk about, and sometimes it can kind of come up on you in ways that you don’t expect,” Dreitzer continued.

She invited anyone who felt uncomfortable to step out of the room — to take a deep breath or grab a glass of water. Then she jumped back in.

April is sexual assault awareness month. Here in Las Vegas, 718 people were seen at University Medical Center for sexual assault exams last year alone. The hospital is the only place where the exams can take place in Clark County.

Just think: That’s nearly two a day. And that’s only counting cases in which the victim came forward and agreed to undergo an exam, she said.

More than 60 percent of those victims were locals. The rest were tourists or visiting friends and relatives. Sixty-two were children. The center serves everyone.

“It’s a huge problem,” she said. “It’s extremely prevalent, and we know we can do better as a community.”

The center helps victims — or survivors, rather — at all levels. Whether it’s sexual harassment or sexual assault, they assist individuals in crisis, then help them cope by providing counseling.

“We will see victims and survivors in our counseling center at any point after the assault. It could be 30 years later, 40 years later, 50 years later, doesn’t matter,” she said to the crowd.

That’s common in sexual assault — not reporting it until years later. Especially with children.

“So often, if the first person a child victim tells doesn’t believe them, the child will not tell anyone else,” Dreitzer said.

After a quick lesson on consent — which is “a clear yes, not the absence of a no” — a woman raised her hand.

Drietzer’s talk was informative, the woman said, but what about President Donald Trump? Have his prior controversial comments on sexual assault affected the local climate of sexual violence?

Another woman in the crowd guffawed, then dramatically rolled her eyes.

“Regardless of what’s going on in the community and who our leaders are, there’s a role that everybody can play in counteracting this and saying, ‘This is not OK,’” Dreitzer said. “We want to engage everybody in this fight, and set positive examples and role models, particularly for young men.

“If we don’t get the message out there that it’s not acceptable, that it’s not OK, we’re going to continue to perpetuate it, and we can’t let that happen. It just affects too many people’s lives.”

She said the Rape Crisis Center has served the community for 43 years, “which is both wonderful and terrible.”

“We hope not to be here 43 years later,” she said, but for now, “we feel grateful we are here” to address the need.

Vegas Vice appears every other Saturday. Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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