Jacksonville’s beaches launch sexual assault awareness campaign

Campaign focuses on Jacksonville, Atlantic, Neptune beach businesses

VIDEO: With Sexual Assault Awareness Month about to kick off in April and crowds growing at Jacksonville’s busiest beach businesses, city leaders and advocates say the message about preventing sexual assault is more important now than ever -- particularly when you mix the dangers of parties, people and alcohol.

Last year, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville performed more than 300 sexual assault exams and the tip line got more than 2,000 reports.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Leaders say only about 1 in 4 victims of sexual assault actually come forward.

With Sexual Assault Awareness Month about to kick off in April and crowds growing at Jacksonville’s busiest beach businesses, city leaders and advocates say the message about preventing sexual assault is more important now than ever -- particularly when you mix the dangers of parties, people and alcohol.

“Sexual assault is preventable, so why wouldn’t we do everything we possibly can to prevent it,” Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond said.

Diamond joined the mayors of Jacksonville, Atlantic and Neptune beaches on Tuesday to launch a sexual assault campaign in conjunction with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.

The campaign is funded by $10,000 appropriated from the Jacksonville City Council Operating Contingency Fund for the Women’s Center.

The money will be used for an advertising campaign to combat sexual assault.

The campaign will focus on local restaurants, bars and hotels in Jacksonville, Neptune and Atlantic beaches.

“We are here to listen, to believe and to support,” said Teresa Miles with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville. (WJXT)

According to data provided by the cities, Neptune Beach has had 13 reported sexual attacks in the last three years, Atlantic Beach had 23 reported sexual assaults/batteries in the last three years, and Jacksonville Beach had 55 reported sexual batteries since 2018.

Survivor Jill has shared her story with News4Jax about fighting off an attacker in her Jacksonville Beach home in the middle of the night.

“He got me in a chokehold and pinned me down and at that point, you’re thinking, ‘I really don’t wanna die,’” Jill said.

But she fought back -- with all her might -- and ran him off. She reported the attack immediately and months later, police used DNA to catch the suspect. But it doesn’t always end this way.

“We hope you report but also help you get through it with some therapy and counseling and a support system and network of people that will be there and make sure you can get through it, and you’re not alone,” said Kelly Smith with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.

The campaign is about preventing assaults before they happen by helping you recognize the signs of sexual abuse.

“There’s never been anything like this at the Beaches community. We’ve got Spring Break, lots of bars, lots of fun, but this is our effort to make sure that fun is safe for everybody involved,” Diamond said.

The campaign includes the slogan, “3 beaches... 1 mission: Wipe out sexual assault” along with the Women’s Center’s 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline: 904-721-7273. The hotline is free and confidential.

“We are here to listen, to believe and to support,” said Teresa Miles with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.