Williston woman uses 5K walk to raise awareness of sexual assault

Local News

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network every 73 seconds, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted and every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.

Meanwhile, 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.

One Williston woman who was once a victim is using her trauma to help others.

Thora Pepin said, “A lot of people put a lot of pressure on victims and say things, I think mostly out of lack of understanding.”

Pepin knows first hand the feeling of not being understood when you cry for help.

On September 19, 2017, Pepin was sexually assaulted.

“It was in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday and it was actually a former partner of mine that sexually assualted me,” she said. “When I went and got my restraining order, the first thing someone said to me was I can’t believe you would do that.”

She says although her assailant was charged, the trauma lingered. Not just from the assault itself, but because it left her feeling alone.

“That was the hardest part with that stuff just sticking in your head, you know, and feeling like the community doesn’t believe you,” she said.

But after three years of self-healing, she’s made it her priority to help others who may be going through the same trauma.

“We decided we wanted to take it upon ourselves to start a support group. Dove into that, researched that, and realized it’s a lot of responsibility, so we decided to start with a 5K to kind of ease our way into it,” Pepin said.

The 5K is themed ‘Yes Means Yes’ signifying the importance of consent between partners.

“It’s anything that is unwanted, so yes means yes and anything outside of that is sexual assault. It could be so much as a touch, a feel, a sexual harassment falls into that as well. I think that if people were just more aware of people’s boundaries and what was okay and asking permission, and asking for that consent, you know, making sure that people are okay and well in the situation before moving forward, we’d be in a lot better space,” Pepin said.

While the 5K helped raise awareness, it was more than that.

“So, we’ve got sound bath, yoga, meditation, and then we have some groove — it’s a healing movement dance as well so we’re really focusing on the healing side of things today,” she said.

Pepin says she’s not the only one behind all of this, she’s partnered with Choice Recovery, an addiction counseling service.

“Throughout the years of working with clients more and more sexual assault and trauma has come up, but it’s really become a major issue within the last several years with the population that I work with and it’s been difficult to link them up with support and services and so we just want people to know that there is support,” Choice Recovery Counseling Licensed Addictions Counselor Lacey Glueckert said.

Pepin says this is the event’s first year and she’s already looking towards more.

“It feels good, you know, to be able to step up and maybe not necessarily use so much of your voice, but just show up for yourself, and be surrounded by survivors and people who support survivors,” Pepin said.

Pepin says the proceeds made today will be donated to Choice Recovery to help keep events like these going.

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