With a recent self defense class as well as a “Jogging for Justice” 5k and a public “Speak Out,” the Sexual Assault Center is making sure the Rome and Floyd County communities know about the issue of sexual assault and that there is help to those who seek it.
“Primarily our job is to provide 24-hour crisis intervention to residents of Northwest Georgia,” said Kim Davis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center. “We offer a 24-hour crisis hotline as well as counseling services, medical accompaniment and forensic rape exams.”
The term sexual assault covers a number of acts which include unwanted sexual contact, molestation, rape and aggravated sodomy. Davis said many in the local community may not realize how big of a problem it is. By nature, it is an issue that people are afraid or ashamed to discuss. And it can happen to women as well as to men.
“It’s a big problem,” she said. “Sexual assault happens every two minutes in the U.S. One in six people will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and only about 36 percent of those people report the crime. The remainder is unreported. We’re not reaching everyone.”
Davis said there are many fears faced by victims of sexual assault that may keep them from reporting the crime to police or from seeking help from other avenues. She said victims may feel ashamed or traumatized. But victims of sexual assault should seek counseling because they are more likely to suffer from depression, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and more likely to attempt suicide because of unresolved emotions that stem from their assault.
“A common misconception that time heals all wounds,” Davis said. “A victim may not have dealt with their issues after an assault and a lot of time may pass and they or others might think it’s forgotten. “But we encourage counseling to get them back on the road to recovery.”
Victims don’t always know what to do in the event of a sexual assault. Davis said their 24-hour hotline at 1-866-655-8625 is the first step. Counselors can offer options to victims, offer forensic rape exams as well as guidance and advice — and all their services are free, private and confidential.
“It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since a sexual assault has taken place,” Davis said. “It could be five years ago, five minutes ago or 20 years ago. There’s still a lot of healing that person needs. At some point something could trigger that reaction. It’s good talk to someone and get guidance to help them through. Those victims who didn’t report it or never worked through it, never really heal.”
In 2011, the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia (which is based in Rome and serves Floyd, Chattooga, Gordon, Polk and Bartow counties), conducted 90 forensic rape exams and took 557 crisis calls, providing counseling for 235 victims.
Of those numbers, Davis said the greater part is from Floyd County.
“One in three, one in six, these are numbers that ring through our head, yet these aren’t numbers at all,” Davis added. “These are women and men, old and young that we have seen walk through our doors at the Sexual Assault Center. These people all have experienced first hand the trauma of sexual assault. While to some these numbers remain as just that... numbers or statistics, but to us, they are real people, survivors for sure.
“Often I am asked how I can work as an advocate for women who have been sexually victimized. Don’t I find it depressing and sad? I simply reply NO, I am inspired by the resiliency of the human spirit.”
There is hope, she said. Victims of sexual assault have somewhere to turn. And only by making this issue a public one, can the community move forward toward the goal of ending sexual assault.
To donate to the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia, readers may visit online at sacnwga.com or send a check to:
Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia
P.O. Box 928
Rome, Ga., 30162