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City votes to put $10,000 toward sexual assault prevention at Beaches ahead of spring break

The funds will go to the Women's Center of Jacksonville ahead of the peak visitor season at Duval County's beach communities.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sexual assault is in no way an easy topic to discuss. As spring break approaches, the Jacksonville City Council has appropriated funding for the Women's Center of Jacksonville to educate on prevention and how to report an assault.

Ordinance 2020-0111 will allocate $10,000 to Women's Center of Jacksonville by March 2, which will be used to distribute content like posters and flyers at bars, restaurants and hotels in Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach.

"We essentially are hosting a big party every weekend, from spring break all the way through the summer," Councilman Rory Diamond said. "It's something we don't love to talk about but we have to talk about: sexual assaults are happening at the beaches. We want to stop them."

The educational programs would correspond with high school and college spring breaks when additional foot traffic is expected at businesses in the Beaches.

"What you'll see is myself and the three Beaches mayors going to every bar and restaurant at the beaches," Diamond said. "We're going to put up posters, put out coasters, we're going to all the police departments to ensure we have training."

Meanwhile, there are signs of possible sexual assault that anyone should be on the lookout for when out with friends.

Sheila Spivey is the Senior Director of the University of North Florida's Women's Center, a resource on campus for students who have survived sexual assault. In an interview with First Coast News, Spivey said the narrative around reporting sexual assaults is progressing.

"The survivor and the perpetrator are typically the two people that the narrative has historically focused on," Spivey said. "But now the narrative is really focused on the entire culture: what within our culture might allow sexual violence to occur."

Spivey pointed out that there are methods of intervention in a situation where someone may be at risk of sexual assault. Methods include approaching a situation with other friends to diffuse tension and pull someone away, as well as direct intervention by calling out negative behavior and habits.

"The shift with bystander intervention is really taking the onus of responsibility for sexual violence away from the victim," she said. "It's not the victim's fault or the victim's responsibility to stop violence from occurring."

Victim's advocacy resources from UNF's Women's Center can be found here. If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673.

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