Grant expands center’s services

A recent grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s office awarded nearly $1 million in funding of 25 rape crisis programs and centers in Ohio. Tri-County Help Center is one of 23 centers receiving a $36,789 grant which will be used to expand its current sexual assault services.

“This is the first time that money from Ohio’s new Rape Crisis Program Trust Fund is being used, so these are additional resources that can now go towards helping survivors of sexual assault,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “The funds will help strengthen and expand upon the services and support these agencies currently provide, which are essential in the recovery process after a traumatic assault.”

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Tri-County Help Center wants to remind the public of its free victim support services, including 24-hour crisis intervention, victim/court advocacy, emergency shelter for survivors, legal and hospital accompaniment, recovery and counseling, and a crisis hotline available 24 hours at 1-800-695-1639.

“Our 24-hour crisis line is a live person trained in crisis counseling and victim advocacy,” said Leann Vincenzo, Tri-County’s Sexual Assault Program Facilitator.

“Also, we provide these services to men. We are no longer just ‘women’s’ Tri-County, as we have recognized that men are victims too.”

Rape happens everywhere, all over the world. Sadly, one out of every four women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to information provided by the Tri-County Help Center. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that at least 84 percent of the time, the victim knows the person assaulting her. About 44 percent of victims are under the age of 18, and 80 percent are under the age of 30.

RAINN states that sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, as only 40 percent of rapes are ever reported. Of this number, only three rapists out of 100 will go to prison. Lack of reporting could be due to a number of factors, but one of the most telling is believability. In fact, college students believe 50 percent of rape claims are false. Actually, studies show that the number of false rape claims are small – two to eight percent.

Especially unnerving were cases from India of gang rape resulting in death. Stories like this help perpetuate an environment of “rape culture,” where sexual violence against women is normalized and dismissed in media and popular culture. Women, in turn, fear for their safety and feel that society is disregarding their rights. This cycle of fear is the legacy of rape culture.

Some examples of rape culture include blaming the victim (“She asked for it.”) or trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys.”), sexual harassment or sexual jokes, assuming only promiscuous women get raped, not taking rape accusations seriously, and teaching women to avoid rape rather than teaching men to not rape. You can combat rape culture by avoiding language that objectifies women, take any report of a rape seriously, be respectful of other’s personal space and getting involved in a community or student program that speaks out against violence against women.

The Tri-County Help Center, Inc. began as a “Task Force for Battered Women” in 1979. It is a private non-profit corporation that provides residents of Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties services such as mental health counseling, case management , psychiatric assessment and treatment and anti-violence programs. Tri-County’s administrative offices are located at 104 1/2 N. Marietta St. in St. Clairsville, while two full-time satellite offices are open in Woodsfield at 117 N. Main St. and in Cadiz at 109 West Warren St. In addition, The Help Center owns and operates an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence/sexual assault called Peg’s House.

On Saturday, April 26 from 1-3 p.m., Tri-County Help Center is sponsoring a free women’s self-defense class. The class will be held inside the Ohio University Eastern Campus’s Fitness Center, room 107. The class is free to women ages 16 and up and is open to the public. For more information, call Tri-County at 740-695-5441 or email Leann Vincenzo at

For more information about Tri-County Help Center, in Belmont County, call 740-695-5441 or 800-695-1639; in Monroe County, call 740-472-0255; and in Harrison County, call 740-942-1018.