LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Zenja Dunn, for decades, was unaware she was a survivor.
The Las Vegas native said a family member had continuously sexually assaulted her from eight to 16 years old. She did not realize it was assault until she was in her thirties.
“It was a violent relationship,” Dunn said to 8 News Now. “As a child, it kind of put that in a closet in the back of my brain, (survivors) have a disconnect from our body, so things will happen to us and we’ll literally be like, ‘that’s not happening.’”
Her story is just one of the thousands in the valley of people who have turned to Signs of Hope, formerly known as the Rape Crisis Center, for help.
The nonprofit offers services to those impacted by “any form of sexual violence,” according to its website.
New CEO Kim Small reveals more of those victims were assisted by the nonprofit last year than years prior.
She listed the increases of three Sign of Hope services from 2021 to 2022:
- Calls to 24/7 hotline: 5,201 (4.7% increase)
- Victims assisted at the hospital: 475 (8% increase)
- Clients who received counseling from therapists: 240 per month (26% increase)
Small adds these victims ranged from four to 77 years old in 2022 and that multiple months saw over 600 calls for service.
“It’s immediate needs, but it’s also those who were in the past assaulted,” Small said inside the nonprofit’s office near Charleston and Rancho Tuesday.
She said the #MeToo movement, increased coverage of high-profile sexual assault court cases and the increased accessibility to Telehealth therapy have persuaded more survivors to seek help.
This so much so that Small attributes the nonprofit’s expansion of staff and office space in 2019 to the ever-increasing demand.
Signs of Hope services have also spread through a community partnership with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police (LVMPD) and local hotels and casinos, Small adds.
It includes a free training program for hospitality staff to recognize the signs of predatory behavior.
Now, Signs of Hope is looking ahead to the potential increased demand for services come the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024: F1 and Super Bowl LVIII.
“We do see a rise, an uptick in numbers with a lot of (sporting events) happening,” Small said. “It could be circumstance that there’s a lot of alcohol. Perpetrators know what to look for. They too know that these events are coming, so there’s going to be some vulnerability.”
Now a member of Sign of Hope’s board of directors, Dunn says she put her radio career on pause to help others navigate the realization she continues to grapple with daily.
“I don’t want it to ruin your good time, but understand that people are going to come away from this not having a good time. People are going to come away from this victimized. So, what small step can you take to maybe stop one of those things from happening?” Dunn said.
Signs of Hope offers these services free of charge to potential victims:
- 24/7 crisis hotline: 702-366-1640
- Partysmartinlv.com: A campaign to end sexual violence and nightlife and entertainment settings
- Stay S.A.F.E. (Sexual Assault Free Environments): free training program with LVMPD for hospitality staff about how to recognize predatory behavior
- Signs of Hope urges anyone interested in their services to contact them at email@example.com