One in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, yet only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.
Julie Weil , a Jupiter mother of two, felt the pain of rape firsthand. In October 2002, she was brutally attacked in the back of her minivan while her young children were forced to watch.
Julie fought back. Her rapist is behind bars. And now, by telling her story Julie has been able to create change, here in Palm Beach County and across the country.
Below you will find key safety tips from Julie, information about the services she has helped bring to our area and how national legislation will help sexual assault kits move off evidence room shelves and into laboratories.
Basic Safety Tips from Julie Weil:
- Park as close to your destination as possible. Stay away from the far reaches of parking lots and perimeter areas with fences, pillars, shrubs or greenery that could conceal someone hiding.
- Always lock your car door before walking away, no matter how long you will be gone. Never leave anything of value in your a car. Purses, phones and packages can be an open invitation to thieves.
- As you approach your car, start by visually scanning underneath. Pay attention to the cars parked next to you. If you are parked next to a van with a sliding door, enter your vehicle from the passenger side and slide over.
- Before you get inside the car do a quick visual sweep of the inside. Check behind all rows of seats. Do not leave blankets or coats lying around inside as these items can be used to conceal criminals.
- Do not linger in parking lots. Once you get to your car, get in as quickly as possible and lock your doors. Try to avoid standing by the car to organize your belongings or socialize with friends.
- Have your keys handy. Use your keyless remote system if you have one to lock and unlock the doors quickly and without fumbling. These keyless remote systems often come with a panic button which can also be a valuable tool in an emergency.
- Trust your instincts. If something does not feel right tell someone, scream or run. It's better to play it safe then to worry about looking foolish. Ask for an escort to your car if you are feeling uneasy or are overloaded with packages or children.
- Walk confidently and with a purpose. Even if you do not know where you are, pretend that you do. Seeming disoriented or disorganized can be a dangerous mistake.
- Avoid talking on your cell phone when you are loading and unloading people and packages from your car. However, make sure that you always travel with your phone and be sure that it is charged in case of an emergency.
- Make eye contact with the people approaching you while you are walking. This alone may be enough to scare off a potential attacker. Criminals often fear being identified and will likely move on if they feel that they may be recognized later.
- Try to refrain from disclosing information about you or your kids on the outside of your vehicle. Child-related bumper stickers and decals can be "red flags" for predators.
- Mothers with very young children should avoid using their car as a diaper changing station. Standing outside with your car open and your back exposed to the parking area makes you extremely vulnerable.
- Remember that just because someone looks "safe" does not mean that they are.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Even if you feel like you are in a safe environment. You can never, ever be too cautious.
Palm Beach County Victim Services Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Team:
The Palm Beach County Victim Services & Certified Rape Crisis Center is the only certified rape crisis center in Palm Beach County.
Through grants from the Office of Violence Against Women and the Florida Department of Health victim advocates helped 897 sexual assault victims and assisted with 142 sexual assault exams at the Butterfly House last year.
Victims of sexual assault are provided with expert care through certified and trained employees from the beginning.
Before the crisis center and the Butterfly House, when an individual was raped here in Palm Beach County, they were taken to a local hospital where they were examined. There a victim was helped by local law enforcement and hospital doctors and nurses that may or may not have been trained to help victims. While the medical staff was trained in patient care, they may not have been trained in forensic collection.
Now, there are sexual assault nurse examiner or SANE trained nurses that provide forensic rape exams and medical care for rape victims. These nurses have gone through 40 hours of SANE training, meaning they are specially trained on how
to collect evidence from rape victims.
The Butterfly House
The Butterfly House, is a dream come true for Julie. When she was raped in Miami, the experience of meeting with law enforcement and going through the rape exam was grueling. But, she said she feels lucky that people were dedicated to her case and dedicated to helping her.
When she moved to Palm Beach County soon after being raped, she was surprised to learn there was not a rape crisis center anywhere in the county. When she told lawmakers about this, they were shocked and at first did not believe her.
With the help of local lawmakers and other area victim advocates, she has been able to make the Butterfly House a reality. At the center, rape victims are taken into a private room, where they can be examined, talk with certified rape experts and police all at one time.
What makes it so special, Julie says, is the fact that there is a room for them to shower, change their clothes and begin to put their lives back together. A victim does not have to wait until they go home to shower or be transported to a police station to give their statement.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 2013:
In February 2013, President Barrack Obama signed an extension of the Violence Against Women Act into law. This law authorizes more than $650 million a year over a five year period to be spent on programs that will help the criminal justice system prosecute and respond to crimes.
The extension of the act will help pay for hotlines, transitional housing, legal assistance and law enforcement training. Some of this money can also be used to fund the testing of rape kits, something Julie helped fight for.
VAWA was originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994.