FREDONIA – Rep. Tom Reed is no stranger to the tragedy of sexual assault.
The congressman, who hosted a round-table discussion Wednesday to promote awareness about sexual assault on the campus of SUNY Fredonia, said his 18-year-old niece was sexually assaulted by several people during a high school prom.
“I have spoken about this before,” said Reed, R-Corning. “We feel strongly that efforts need to made to curb this growing problem.”
The discussion group, meeting in the Williams Center, included Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano, Fredonia Police Chief Bradley Meyers, Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce, as well as representatives from Jamestown Community College, the Salvation Army, WCA Hospital and the district attorney’s office.
Chautauqua County Health Director Christine Schuyler talked about breaking through cultural barriers in the county to educate people about sexual assault.
“We have a great deal of cultural diversity and we need to be able to communicate to the right people in different communities to help to educate and prevent sexual assaults,” she said.
Local school representatives said education on the issue should begin in elementary school. Participants also said more male role models are needed to educate boys.
Promoting education and awareness among sports coaches, who could take a leadership role, also was discussed.
Reed noted he and staffers from his office are committed to participate in the national program, “No More Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.” The program, he said, is receiving positive attention and reaching a large number of people.
Reed saw Wednesday’s gathering as a positive development.
“We took lots of notes and will take our ideas back to come up with future action plans about this topic,” said Reed, who added that he is committed to continuing to speak about the issue in public.
State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, said he will encourage school leaders to introduce the issue into school curriculum.