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In light of sexual misconduct allegations nationwide, conversation and action against sexual harassment, assault and domestic violence has been taken in communities nationwide.

To enlighten the community to the prevalence of these issues, Verde Valley Sanctuary will host a Sexual Harassment and Assault Workshop: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe on Saturday, Jan. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Sedona Public Library. The workshop is intended to show people they are not alone, and there are available resources in the community.

“We felt that [the community] really didn’t know where to turn for help,” VVS Development Director Jennifer Perry said. “What we really need to be doing is talk about this issue of harassment and assault, and what you do when you are caught off-guard in a situation. So, we started brainstorming different ways to approach it.”

Thus, the conception for the workshop was conceived.

The workshop is intended to reach full, starting with a discussion on practical tips on how to handle and identify situations of abuse and violence lead by Verde Valley Sanctuary Outreach Director Lisa Davis.

Attendees will also learn how to protect themselves from physical or psychological harassment in situations either at work, school or in personal relationships. Speaking on matters in these realms will be employment law and human resources consultant Laura J. Hamblin.

Hamblin has training in the legal side of sexual harassment and will talk about workplace laws that prohibit sexual harassment, explain its legal definition and provide examples of harassment in the workplace.

“It’s good for both the employer and the employees to know,” Hamblin said about sexual harassment laws in the workplace. “The employers need to make sure they’re providing training and a complaint procedure, so that they can address things properly.”

Cottonwood Police Department Victim Advocate Johannah Rutschow is another workshop presenter. Rutschow intends to address the differences between sexual harassment and sexual assault and the misconceptions around sexual consent.

“Sexual harassment and sexual assault are actually two different things. Sexual harassment is more of a civil issue; it’s not criminal. But there is a bit of a gray area sometimes with that. That’s pretty much my big topic,” Rutschow said. “The next piece is sexual assault. The vast majority of sexual assaults are not a stranger in an alley. They are acquaintances, or friends, or it’s a date. That’s what we have seen in the department in 2017 — our sexual assaults, each one of them, was known by the victim. That’s what I want to talk about a little, and also consent.”

Traveling Master Steve Wills will also teach attendees basic self-defense measures. He is a martial arts expert and has trained the VVS shelter staff on basic self-defense measures.

The event is intended to be positive and engaging so people may learn about these issues in a comfortable environment.

“We’re trying to make it a fun event,” Davis said. “It’s not just kind of doom and gloom about sexual harassment. I think that, that’s key to. We’re trying to have it be positive versus kind of all these negative thoughts about sexual harassment.”

While the workshop is the first of its kind, VVS staff said they hope it will not be the last. VVS Executive Director Matthew Kelley encourages men, women and teenagers of all ages to continue the conversation on these issues by attending the free workshop on Saturday, Jan. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Sedona Public Library.

“Why are we hosting a class on sexual harassment? We want to offer community events so we can all sit and talk together about solutions, prevention and stand up for each other,” Kelley said. “I wish every young person could attend because we want to prepare them for their lives. They are going to have to be a protector and a leader. If you are a modern woman or a modern man, you need to become a modern warrior and be a protector .... We are all responsible.”

The Verde Valley Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that strives to break the cycle of family violence, domestic abuse and sexual assault in the community. It is the only domestic violence shelter and service agency in the Verde Valley, and it offers free services and programs, such as an emergency shelter with 28 beds, a 24-hour crisis hotline, legal advocacy and more.

Makenna Lepowsky can be reached at 282-7795 ext. 126

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