Specialist Discusses Seriousness of Sexual Crimes - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Specialist Discusses Seriousness of Sexual Crimes

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"I think it's an issue that's far greater than most people care to think about or admit," Linda Reeves, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Help Center in Wheeling said of sexual assault and rape.

Recent cases, like the one gaining national attention in Steubenville, Ohio have brought the very serious issue into news headlines and conversations everywhere.

"It's an event that's devastating, that does have a life-long impact on victims and their families," Reeves said.

At the Sexual Assault Help Center, it's something they deal with everyday. According to Reeves, the center served over 900 victims and survivors in 2012. The center offers free and confidential help and support to people across the Northern Panhandle. 

"When somebody is sexually assaulted, whether it's a child, a youth or an adult, there is a profound impact on everybody involved in that persons life and the community," Reeves said.

These days, technology is changing the way people are being exploited. Reeves said that children and teens are being lured into frightening and dangerous situations, and everyone needs to be very careful of their behavior on social media and cell phones.

She says that even adults sometimes have a hard time grasping the implications their actions can have on the internet.

"If the person or persons involved are under the age of 18 or under the age of 16, it becomes a criminal act," Reeves said. "The consequences are very strong."

Reeves also stressed that there are laws in place that hold people accountable for those kinds of crimes, and prosecutors and law enforcement are becoming much more aggressive in investigating them.

Reeves has a piece of advice for those wanting to talk about the issues on social media.

"I would caution teens or adults or anyone, in their talking about it or discussing it, to be careful of the victim blaming," she said. "This can happen to anybody and it's not a laughing matter, it's not something funny, it's not something to be proud of."

The Sexual Assault Help center has offices in Wheeling and Steubenville.

If you or anyone you know is wanting to seek support or guidance, call the Sexual Assault Help Center hotline, 1-800-884-7242.