Health and Family Services Cabinet
Gov. Beshear Proclaims March Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Kickoff event spotlights prevention efforts

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, February 26, 2014  
Contact Information:  Media Contact: Anya Armes Weber, (502) 564-6786, ext. 3104; or Jill Midkiff, (502) 564-7042, ext. 3465  

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 26, 2014) – The prevention and advocacy efforts of several groups and individuals were highlighted today as part of the kickoff of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The Capitol Rotunda event was cosponsored by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP). Governor Steve Beshear has signed a proclamation declaring March as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Kentucky.

CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said collaborations between her agency staff and groups like KASAP improves awareness and prevention.

“KASAP works hard to educate Kentuckians in all walks of life about sexual assault, and our staff complements that,” she said. “These local and statewide efforts are changing the culture of our communities and helping to end sexual violence.”

Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown said that his agency is committed to preventing and responding to sexual assault.

“Recognizing the far-reaching impact that sexual assaults have on individuals, their families and our communities, the Justice Cabinet is proud to support the critical work of KASAP and our rape crisis centers through various grants and the development of ‘Zero Tolerance Cultures,’ ” he said.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington and House Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg have sponsored Sexual Assault Awareness Month resolutions in the state Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. Rep. Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook will call for the resolution to be read on the House floor.

KASAP Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald said it’s becoming easier for people to talk about sexual violence, and that is making a difference.
“It’s gotten a lot easier to talk about, because – from the White House down – we are seeing a straightforward response to the problem,” she said.

Recktenwald said that sexual assault affects people physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and it affects their relationships, too.

“When anyone – women, men, children or adults -- needs help, the state’s network of rape crisis centers offer comprehensive assistance to all survivors in their path to recovery,” she said.

Recktenwald said that family and friends of assault survivors may get help through the centers, and that greater support from government leaders and community partners are building stronger services.

At an awards dinner tonight in Frankfort, four Kentuckians will receive the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Award for their contributions to end sexual violence.

The winners, who were also recognized at the Rotunda event, are as follows:

Regional SAAMy: Ruford Abner, Rowan County Sheriff's Office
Statewide SAAMy: Marylee Underwood, Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities
Fonetta Elam Award (tie): Erica Myers, Safe Harbor; and Brenda Hughes, Kentucky River Community Care
Innovative Program Award: START (Sexual Trauma and Assault Response Training) program, Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center
Visionary Voice Award: Dr. Ann Coker (This national award is sponsored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.)
New this year, the Fonetta Elam Award honors excellence in clinical supervision and pays tribute to Elam, who was director of the Prestonsburg Rape Victim Services Program and provided services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims for more than 30 years. Elam died in January 2013. Recktenwald said this award emphasizes the importance of supervised clinical work in the area of victim services and to reward and recognize the effort of exemplary professionals in that field.

For more information about the sexual assault prevention programs and services and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, please visit or


The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state’s human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health. CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.