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Walking with Survivors to bring awareness to sexual violence

Sexual violence is a topic not often discussed, but something many people experience in their lifetime.  It is so common, national CDC statistics show that one in two women and one in three men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetime.  One in four women and one in 26 men have experienced completed or attempted rape. 

Sexual violence also starts early with four in five female rape survivors reporting they were first raped before the age of 25 and almost half were raped as a minor. Nearly eight in 10 male rape survivors were made to penetrate someone before the age of 25. 

Since 1973, the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center (RDVIC) has worked to support survivors of rape, bring awareness to the issues of sexual violence and to advocate for the equal rights of all individuals to have a life free of violence in West Virginia. 

RDVIC is a licensed and comprehensive community-based service for victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking.  It opened the first battered women and children’s shelter in West Virginia and have outreach offices in Monongalia, Taylor and Preston counties that are run by victim advocates and a domestic violence shelter. 

The 2019 statistics from the Department of Justice say 21% of all violent victimization in West Virginia involved sexual assault. That year, there were 52 sexual assaults per 100,000 persons and 151 sexual assaults per 100,000 for juveniles. Those numbers factor in completed rapes, not attempted or sexual contact. 

The 2019 statistics also show the average age of sexual assault victims in the state was 15 years for males and 20 years for females with 94% of sexual assault victimizations committed by someone the victims knew. 

The RDVIC organization provides direct services such as crisis intervention, medical and civil legal advocacy, case management, safety planning, and peer-to-peer counseling, while also educating the community, conducting intentional outreach and raising awareness around these issues of violence to help support the survivors on a community level and work towards preventing violence before it happens. 

In addition to those services, RDVIC runs a 24/7 crisis hotline to serve victims and survivors. 

On Saturday, the nonprofit will hold its annual Walking with Survivors event, which is a day for RDVIC, its community partners and community members of Monongalia, Preston and Taylor counties to come together to support victims and survivors of sexual violence.  

In addition to observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), held annually in April, 2023 marks 50 years of RDVIC being an agency and providing service throughout Monongalia, Preston and Taylor counties.  

SAAM recognizes sexual violence against all persons and brings awareness to this topic that is often not discussed. Additionally, it recognizes ways that individuals, groups and organizations, can take steps toward preventing acts of sexual violence. 

Hannah Rhea, RDVIC domestic violence specialist, said the benefit of the survivor’s walk is two-fold. With around 140 participants in 2022, the event is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year while also bringing awareness to the cause. 

“Fundraising is a really big part of us being able to operate and continue to serve our clients and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Rhea said.  

“This is event is so large because it’s probably one of the only events in the area that allows survivors to be seen and heard.” 

Registration for the survivor’s walk will start at 2:30 p.m. at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion in Spruce Street in downtown Morgantown with the walk beginning at 3:30 p.m. 

“The walk itself doesn’t take super long,” Rhea said.  “We are going to have a raffle going, there will be several community partners tabling there, providing information and resources to people.” 

The afternoon will also be filled with food, drinks, a DJ and people supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence. 

Keynote speakers for the event are Virginia Hopkins and Gabrielle “Gabe” Mucciola, with assistance from RDVIC staff member Leann Williams.  

Rhea said the organization hopes events like the survivor’s walk make RDVIC a little more approachable to community members. 

“People get scared of us in a way.  I think our name is what people think we do and it scares people off,” Rhea explained.  “So events like this help portray us in a way that’s more approachable and more survivor-centered, which is what we are always aiming for.” 

Tickets for the event are $20 and those who wish to participate in the event can pre-register by visiting where a link to the Eventbrite ticketing page can be found. You can also directly visit and search for Walking with Survivor’s. Registration can also be done the day of the event. 

Rhea said to receive a promo code to use when checking out on Eventbrite, contact Carl at or Amaya at, or call 304-292-5100 and ask for either one of them.