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Help is always available for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Intimate partner violence occurs across age, ethnic and socioeconomic lines, and among heterosexual and same-sex couples.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month raises awareness about domestic and sexual violence. Across the country, advocates are joining health care providers, business leaders, policy makers, faith-based groups, college students and many others at events and activities designed to bring attention to this critical issue.

Domestic violence may be tied to sexual assault.

If you live in the Juniata Valley, there are two agencies that exist to assist victims of these crimes:

¯ The Abuse Network, based in Lewistown and serving Mifflin, Juniata and Huntingdon (sexual assault only) counties.

¯ Transitions of PA, based in Lewisburg, which serves the portion of our readership in Snyder County.

¯Huntingdon House, for domestic violence issues in that county.

More than one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced, rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.

If you are a victim, please reach out to one of these agencies. Their mission is to make your life stable.

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month began, the state legislature sent to the governor a related bill sponsored by Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte) — which passed unanimously in both houses — that removes the requirement of having an adoptive family lined up in order to terminate the rights of a perpetrator of rape or sexual assault that resulted in the birth of a child.

This, too, is protecting victims. The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Imagine surviving rape and becoming pregnant as a result of the assault. Imagine working to provide a loving and stable home for your child, only to learn that the person who raped you has legal parental rights over your child. Imagine learning that in order to terminate those parental rights, you must enter into another relationship so that your child has a stepparent to take the place of the “other parent.”

Placing this bill into law will be another step toward eliminating the scourge of domestic violence from our society.

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Disclosure: This editorial was written by Lifestyles Editor Jeff Fishbein, whose spouse is employed by a crisis center that serves victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

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