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Penn State Health St. Joseph Working to Raise Awareness of Sexual Abuse

A case of sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in America, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Tina Roman-Rios, a community health worker in the OB/GYN Department at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s downtown campus, is working to change that.
“My mother raised me to know that I’m important enough to not be in an abusive relationship,” Roman-Rios said. “And I want to let others know that they are that important, too.”

Working toward that end, Roman-Rios created a display at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Family and Women’s Center at the Downtown Campus. A large bulletin board provides information and facts in English and Spanish, urging people to recognize and take action against domestic violence and sexual assault.

“I designed it so it’s eye-friendly and easy to read,” Roman-Rios said. “You don’t need to understand big words or medical terms to understand what it means.”

The board, along with an information table that Roman-Rios tends to, will remain in place throughout April and into May. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Safe Berks donated items and information packets that Roman-Rios distributes to people who visit the Downtown Campus.

“I think it’s important to keep this issue in the public eye,” she said. “Sexual violence isn’t something that we can keep quiet about. We get a lot of people coming into this clinic who can learn if we provide information for them.”

In addition to educating patients and their families about sexual assault and prevention, Roman-Rios and others in the OB/GYN and Women’s Care group encourage women to seek help, when necessary.

“We see patients who, for various reasons, are reluctant to call the police in cases of domestic violence or abuse,” she said. “And, that is a problem.” However, she explained, there are other sources of help. “If someone is afraid to call the police, they should call the Safe Berks hotline,” Roman-Rios said. “And, if they can’t call, they can text. The important thing is to seek help. Someone who is abused needs counsel.”

Victims need to remember that sexual abuse happens among every socio-economic group, ethnic group and religion, and that they are not to blame.
“Abuse is never the victim’s fault,” said Roman-Rios, who is studying to be a nurse. “That’s something that everyone needs to remember.”

Roman-Rios admitted that, as a teenager, she did not understand the mentality and circumstances that cause some people to remain within abusive situations.

“I was little judgmental,” she said. “But people should never judge. Abuse very easily can be mistaken for love.”

The OB/GYN and Women’s Care clinic is a safe place where patients who are experiencing difficulty can talk to someone who cares about them, Roman-Rios noted.

“We understand the perils that some of our patients face and we do whatever we can to help them,” she said.

Roman-Rios, who has lived in Reading her entire life, is committed to bringing positive change to the city and her patients that live there.

“I care about this city, and I’m working to make a difference,” she said. “And, I’ll teach my children to work to make a difference, too. I think that we can change things for the better, even if that change starts with a simple board in a downtown clinic.”

How to Find Help

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence, there is help available.

Safe Berks offers a 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 844-789-SAFE (7233). You also can text SAFE BERKS to 20121 for help, or contact by email at peace@safeberks.org.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) also offers a 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Or, you can live chat online in English or Spanish on RAINN’s website at rainn.org.

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