After Nancy Donoval was raped at the age of 19, she thought she was the only person in the world it had happened to.
There were no words available for the teenager to help describe the violence after she was sexually assaulted by a college friend at his fraternity house.
Some 35 years later, Donoval returned to that fraternity at the invitation of the organization's leaders. She talked to students about what had happened and described it as one way to help prevent such crimes, Donoval told an audience of more than 400 attending the Honor the Women luncheon held Friday at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf.
The event is a fundraiser for the Rape/Sexual Assault Counseling & Advocacy program at Family Resources in Davenport.
Donoval, a professional storyteller who now lives in Minneapolis, said she shares her messages of awareness and prevention all over the country. But, she added, Family Resources is a "treasure" in the Quad-Cities and the region should be commended for supporting the program.
An exclamation point to Donovol's hour-long presentation came from Harold Mire with Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. Mire is a member of the Honor the Women organizing committee, and he explained that his first job was as a deputy sheriff in Louisiana during the 1970s.
Mire was on patrol in a remote area near New Orleans when he came upon a sexual assault that involved a 3-year-old girl. He was able to save the girl and arrest the perpetrator, and he has never forgotten the incident.
Mire led the crowd in pledging support to sexual assault survivors, as well as to their families and friends, by using the title to a well-known old song: "You'll Never Walk Alone."
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"This room is filled with love for this cause and its victims," Mire said.
Donoval said there are three things Quad-City area residents can do to help prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place, and to support the women (and men) who are victims of the crime.
- Support Family Resources and its Rape/Sexual Assault Counseling & Advocacy program. "Think big," she said. "If you can afford $50,000, give $50,000."
- Talk and speak up about the topic. That is hard, Donoval agreed, but it's necessary to shine a light on the subject to help raise awareness and, eventually, prevention.
- Listen to the people in your life when they talk. You may be surprised at some of the stories, but remember how to connect survivors with help, such as what is available from Family Resources.
"Learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable on this topic," Donoval said. "Be aware. This is in your lives."
There were 100 more people at this year's annual luncheon than in 2012, said Cheryl Goodwin, the president and CEO at Family Resources. "It grows every year," she said.
Goodwin said the agency's sexual assault counseling program is greatly aided by such support.
"We feel very blessed with the volunteers who plan this event," she said.