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WKEF-TV ABC 22 News :: News - Top Stories - Fight To Approve the Violence Against Women Act; Rape Victim Speaks Out
Friday, February 15 2013, 08:31 AM EST
Fight To Approve the Violence Against Women Act; Rape Victim Speaks Out
DAYTON -- Every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

The Violence Against Women Act was created in 1994 to help protect those victims and give out harsher punishment to the attackers, but it expired in 2011.

While the Senate passed the act this week, its fate now sits in the hands of the House.

And now, 30 years after her attack, a local rape victim put a petition online to get the act passed through Congress. She's hoping her personal story will inspire you to sign it.

"I looked down at my watch and when I looked up I looked straight dead in the barrel of a gun," said Sheila Thomas. "He took me by my arm and he held the gun on me."

At that point, the attacker walked her down the street, and took her to a hidden spot behind some houses, and raped her.

"He could have blown my brains out, he could have left me for dead," she said.

She said she was just glad to be alive after weighing everything that could have happened.

Sheila isn't alone. In fact, more than 207,000 women a year in the U.S. are sexually assaulted.

"It's a huge epidemic, domestic violence in the Valley and across the nation," said Jane Keiffer, Clinical Program Director at the Artemis Center in Dayton."

The center helps physically and sexually abused women, and receives some funding from the act and without it, they couldn't continue to help victims.

"We serve over 5,000 people a year, and it's so important to us to continue the life-saving services," said Keiffer.

It's also important to Sheila.

Especially since her attacker was never brought to justice.

So she hopes Congress can do for others what was not done for her.

"This is about humanity, this is about protecting people who feel that they have no protection at all and sometimes the government needs to step in and do for people what they can't do for themselves," said Thomas.

Since Sheila has shared her story, the online petition now has more than 200,000 signatures; her goal is 225,000.

Both Ohio senators, Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, voted for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

If you want to help Sheila's fight and sign the petition, click here.Fight To Approve the Violence Against Women Act; Rape Victim Speaks Out

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