Laurel Center honors sexual assault survivors with visual display

FRONT ROYAL, Va. - Representatives from The Laurel Center Intervention for Domestic and Sexual Violence, say many towns across America don't realize how big of a problem sexual assault and violence is in their communities. 

"It's kind of the not in my backyard mindset where it doesn't happen here, it could never happen here." Amy Fowler of the Laurel Center says. 

Fowler says sexual assault can happen anywhere to anyone... To mark sexual assault awareness month she and her colleagues planted 386 flags at the Warren County court house in Front Royal.

"You can read statistics all you wanting paper and you can hear it word of mouth someone can say something and it doesn't have as much of an impact as something visual." Fowler says. 

The flags represent and honor each of the sexual assault survivors the center has helped since opening their front royal facility in 2014.

"386 is a lot of flags to put in the ground but knowing that each one does represent an individual that we've seen and that we've helped. And that those individuals are going out and empowering others in such a small community meant a lot."  Kelliann Harris of the Laurel center says. 

Fowler says she can't imagine how many flags there would be if every victim came forward but says many suffer in silence due to the stigma associated with sexual assault. 

"Sometimes it comes with a self hatred or feeling disgusted or upset and not knowing where to turn or not even knowing if there are services or help for you in your community." Fowler says. 

Harris says she hopes people keep sexual assault and its victims in their minds past the month of April because suffering can last a lifetime

"People who go through any type of trauma like that -- whether they disclose it or have a court case -- it doesn't end there. Their trauma is life long, and how they respond is life long." Harris says. 

The Laurel Center will hold a survival vigil on Saturday April 21 for residents of Warren County who are victims of sexual assault and their supporters.

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