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Story Archives: Sexual Assault Awareness Month sheds light on Wellspring's work
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|Sexual Assault Awareness Month sheds light on Wellspring's work|
April is sexual assault awareness month and several local agencies are working to spread information about the services offered to help victims of sexual assault crimes.
Sarah Johnson with The Wellspring and Family Justice Center in Monroe says sexual violence can impact all people regardless of their age, ethnicity, race or socio-economic status.
She said while sexual violence is prevalent in today's society, rape is the most underreported crime in the United States.
One in three women and one in six men in the country will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes.
"That's even more likely in northeast Louisiana, where the rate of reported sexual assaults is over twice the state and national average," Johnson said.
According to northeast Louisiana law enforcement reports from 2006 (the latest information available), 204 sexual assaults were reported.
Last year, northeast Louisiana started one of the region's first sexual assault resource teams, which is housed at St. Francis Medical Center.
St. Francis employs sexual assault nurse examiners who are trained to assist adult victims as well as trained pediatric sexual assault examiners.
The Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART) works to serve victims coping with sexual abuse and collects evidence to prosecute offenders.
As soon as an assault is reported, a police officer is dispatched to the scene. At the same time, a sexual assault nurse examiner and a rape crisis advocate are called to a private location where a forensic medical exam will be performed to document any injuries and to collect any material that could serve as evidence.
When a sexual assault victim arrives at a hospital, he or she is examined and evidence is collected. The nurse who conducts the exam is available to testify in court if the victim chooses to prosecute. The rape crisis advocate provides support throughout the exam as well as offering information about confidential aftercare resources.
The SART member agencies for northeast Louisiana include St. Francis Medical Center; The Wellspring Counseling and Family Development Center; Family Justice Center – Ouachita; 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office; 4th Judicial District Probation Office; Legal Services of North Louisiana; LSU Health Sciences Center; Monroe Police Department; West Monroe Police Department; Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office; Ouachita Parish Police Jury; Office of Community Services and Primary Health Services Center.
For the past 20 years, The Wellspring has provided services for victims dealing with sexual assault through its Counseling and Family Development Center, which is the area's official rape crisis response center. The Wellspring offers counseling for victims of sexual assault crimes through crisis telephone lines, which are operated 24 hours a day, seven days week. It also offers domestic violence programs to assist local residents.
In 2005, the Family Justice Center in Monroe opened through a partnership of local agencies whose focus is to help serve domestic violence victims and to work to prevent domestic violence in the parish.
The Family Justice Center is a one-stop service center for free, confidential services for those dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
All organizations on the front lines of the area's fight against domestic violence offer services there.
For more information about sexual assault, or to get help, call The Wellspring Counseling and Family Development Center at 323-1505, or 1-800-716-7233.
The Wellspring also offers free presentations about how to prevent sexual assault to schools, churches and community groups. To schedule a free presentation, call The Wellspring at 651-9314.