BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — In West Virginia, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 21 men will be victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime, that’s according to the Department of Health and Human Resources.

The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to honor victims and survivors both existing and future. Erin Stone, Assistant Executive Director for AWAY West Virginia, said this is crucial in the state with West Virginia having one of the highest rates of sexual assault crime in the country. Stone said it is important to recognize sexual assault can impact everyone, not just women.

“Obviously, women are the most prominent victims of sexual assault however they are not the only victims of sexual assault. We see high numbers in men and children and other victims as well,” Stone said.

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, the organization holds events to educate the community on how sexual assault can impact people and the barriers to seeking justice. Stone said sexual assault cases are harder to prosecute than other cases with procedural obstacles and a stigma against victims preventing a clear path for justice.

“They have to have actual evidence that is, in their minds, visible and unfortunately with sexual assault a lot of it is trauma that is internal, if its physical, its trauma that is psychological, its a lot of other kinds of trauma so it does make it a little more difficult sometimes to prosecute those cases,” Stone said.

The organization works with a victim-centered approach, leading them through guided counseling and assisting them step by step through the legal process. She said sexual assault is more prominent in our communities than people might think, and supporting victims is crucial to providing help and raising awareness.

AWAY West Virginia offers a 25/7 hotline for people in need of help at 304-255-2559.