3 words: ‘I believe you’ can go far in helping victims of sexual, domestic violence

Safe Journeys hosts Rally to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence in Ottawa

La Salle County State's Attorney Joe Navarro speaks Friday, April 12, 2024, during a rally to support domestic and sexual violence victims at the La Salle County Courthouse on Etna Road in Ottawa.

Safe Journeys has had 601 clients stay more than 4,000 nights to seek safety away from sexual and domestic violence in the Ottawa, Mendota, Peru, Streator and Pontiac areas.

Despite wind gusts of more than 20 mph, the Rally to End Domestic and Sexual Violence was held Friday afternoon in front of the La Salle County courthouse on Etna Road in Ottawa, with Safe Journeys Executive Director Susan Bursztynsky stressing simple advice to help victims of abuse.

The first step is to let them know, ‘I believe you. You don’t deserve this. And I’m here for you.’”

—  Safe Journeys Executive Director Susan Bursztynsky

“The first step is to let them know, ‘I believe you. You don’t deserve this. And I’m here for you,’” Bursztynsky said.

Along with providing that fundamental support, Safe Journeys offers free services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, including emergency shelter for people fleeing domestic violence, legal and medical advocacy, supportive counseling and case management.

Its 24-hour support line can be reached at 815-673-1555.

Tasha Arteaga, the Interstate 80 sexual assault nurse examiner at OSF HealthCare, said OSF provides services to those who are sexually assaulted older than 13 at OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa and OSF St. Paul Medical Center in Mendota, including a forensic clinic.

If patients go to emergency departments in Streator, Peru or Princeton, they can be transferred to Ottawa or Mendota for services. Children 13 and younger are transferred to Peoria or Bloomington.

“The biggest thing I’m working on right now is to provide medical follow-up for those who have been involved in these cases,” Arteaga said. “The follow-up would likely be able to occur locally, but it will ensure we’re keeping up with our patients’ safety.”

Victims of sexual and domestic violence will receive vouchers in the emergency department so they are not charged for medical services, Arteaga said.

La Salle County State’s Attorney Joe Navarro said his office gave its support for Safe Journeys to acquire a grant for its services. He commended the agency for the work it does in La Salle County.

April is recognized nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Have a Question about this article?