PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — April is sexual assault awareness month, and central Illinoisans are running to show they stand with survivors.

Pacing for a purpose.

Dozens came out Saturday, April 8, for Center for Prevention of Abuse’s sixth annual ‘I Run with Survivors’ 5K.

Saturday’s sprinters said it’s more important than ever to show up for those who are affected and for those who work to help.

“Just knowing that this is for a good cause definitely help us to keep running, even on a day like today,” said Joe Ehrhart, a student at Peoria Notre Dame High School.

Coordinators say this year’s theme “Drawing connections: Prevention Demands Equity” — focuses on what we can all do to end harmful attitudes, victim-blaming and sexual violence.

The center’s CEO Carol Merna says sexual assault happens every 68 seconds in America.

“One in six women and one in 33 men will be victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. It’s a very difficult idea to be able to come forward, find your voice, find the courage to report what’s happened.”

She said the center applies all proceeds from this event toward providing free and confidential services for sexual assault survivors.

Ehrhart was one of the first people to cross the finish line, and he said it meant so much to him to run this race.

“Went out fast and tried to hang on, then we just tried to push each other the whole time.”

According to Merna, the center’s therapy department works hard to provide the best care for its clients, and she said it’s encouraging to have central Illinoisans show up for the race year after year.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to really support people who worked so hard to find their pathway to peace,” she said.   

For Ehrhart, it’s about shedding more light on abuse, promoting the message and letting survivors know they’re not alone.

“It’s tough, but we’re fighting for you; we’re doing our best to spread awareness of the cause,” he said.