Hope springs eternal

Mary Gubbels photo

Converse Hope Center Director Maria Walker, speaks to the crowd gathered at the Higgins Hotel announcing the proclamation stating that April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month for Converse County.

Mary Gubbels mary@glenrockind.com

The dining room at the historic Higgins Hotel was filled with Converse County residents, political heads, religious leaders and others interested in stopping domestic and sexual abuse.
The air in the room was full of excitement and anticipation. A project that the Converse Hope Center had been working on since February finally came to fruition.
As of Tuesday, April will now be Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Converse County.
“I’d like to give you a heartfelt thank you for coming out here today, this is absolutely amazing to show your support of the Sexual Assault Proclamation,” Converse Hope Center Director Maria Walker said.
The proclamation was read and signed by the mayors of Douglas, Glenrock, Rolling Hills and County Commissioner Rick Grant.
Not only was the proclamation announced and signed, but changes to some domestic abuse laws were completed during the last Wyoming Legislative session in Cheyenne.
“During the 2018 Legislative session, you fought hard for victims and survivors in Wyoming. Thanks to their efforts, we now have laws that revise stalking crimes, revise penalties for domestic violence crimes, increases the duration of protection orders to three years, creates protections against sexual assault by healthcare providers, allows victims to keep cell phone numbers and their accounts as part of their protection order and allows K-12 school districts to provide child abuse prevention education,” Walker announced.
The room filled with more than 40 people erupted in applause after the changes to the laws were announced.
“I’d also like to note that in this time of such divisive politics, that I heard many times how amazing our county legislators are,” Walker said.
There are four primary intentions behind the proclamation, according to Walker.
“The first intention is our gathering here today which creates a positive and proactive sexual assault story, the second is that this public demonstration of community leaders and members begins to breakdown a culture that has enabled predators to thrive. Today we take an important step forward towards giving rise to a new culture that brings predators and violent behaviors into the light.” Walker said.
“The third intention for the proclamation is that Converse County communities are small enough to create solutions and we are too small not to,” she said. “Serious community challenges such as sexual assault require serious community solutions which will only come to fruition when we work together, as we are demonstrating today.”
Time was also given to community leaders to express their gratitude at the work that was completed and to speak about the work that is still yet to be finished.
“I work for the City of Douglas and also as a volunteer for the Hope Center in Douglas, and I am happy and honored to do that,” City of Douglas Clerk Karen Rimmer said. “The impacts of sexual assault and domestic violence are extensive and Converse County is not an exception. Today is a step in the direction of making everyone more aware of this issues.”
“I’d like to thank Maria for bringing the subject of sexual assault awareness to Converse County and to the state level,” County Commissioner Rick Grant said. “Without this effort, we wouldn’t be here today. Those of us in a leadership position, state, county or local, elected or appointed, it’s our duty to be leaders and to lead we must lead by example.”
Walker has been Director of the Converse Hope Center since November 2016. Due to her husband relocating to Colorado, her time at the Hope Center will end in June.
Walker and her team have been working on this proclamation since February of this year.
“To get all of these leaders in one room, I knew that trying to coordinate schedules would be tremendously difficult,” she said.
She went and spoke to county commissioners first and then spoke to the City of Douglas, Town of Glenrock and Town of Rolling Hills.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone is on board with this,” she said. “It’s very important that we do this together.”


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