Counseling center to launch mobile sites for rape victims in rur - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

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Counseling center to launch mobile sites for rape victims in rural AL counties

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

In 2016, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency received almost 2,000 rape cases for the year from across the state. However, Corporal Jesse Thornton admitted the department receives far fewer rape reports than advocacy groups do.

One such group is the Lighthouse Counseling Center, based in Montgomery. The center works with rape victims in the area to get them the resources, counseling and exams they need. The forensic exam offered to victims is important because they are the first necessary step in a victim being able to file a formal complaint or report against their attacker.

However, case workers from the center said getting victims to come forward and take the exam can be challenging. They said it is typically more challenging for younger victims in rural counties. Nurse Crystal Jamith said, based on what is reported, one in six women in rural areas will be raped. For men, she said the reported statistics show one in every nine will be raped.

“I believe it’s more than that. In the rural areas, they’re not really reporting the way we think they should report,” Jamith said.

Jamith is a nurse who said she has administered more than 100 forensic sexual assault exams in her three years on the job. However, she said in the last year, only five of them have been cases from rural counties. One year, she said there were 11 reported rural cases. That was a record. She, and other case workers said the low numbers are not at all an indication that there are few rapes in these areas.

Terria Herron, a case worker in Lowndes, Butler and Crenshaw counties, said she knows better than anyone the pressure a young person would feel to not report an attacker, in a small tight-knit community.

“People always like to keep it in-house,” Herron said. “In a rural county, everybody knows everybody. So, people say, 'This is something we can handle on our own, and we don’t want to get it outside for everybody to see and hear.' It makes it difficult for the victim to report because, at this point, you’re wondering who you can report it to.”

Herron, herself, is a sexual assault and rape survivor. She said she was 5 years old the first time she was “fondled” by an adult man who was close to her. She said she was raped by another man she knew well when she was 8 years old. Herron grew up in Tallapoosa County, and she said the counties and victims she serves remind her of her own hometown and situation.

“I know that I am a survivor, and I am going to continue to be a survivor,” Herron said. “I just want to help other young girls understand that it’s not your fault. Nothing you could do could cause a person to do what’s been done to you.”

Jeremy Marvin, and investigator with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, said cases like Herron’s are what he typically sees.

“In Lowndes County, we have most a lot of sex abuse cases. Fondling, touching,” Marvin said.

He said these incidents usually occur between a girl younger than 12 years old and a man who is in his thirties. He said, so far this year, there have been eight of these specific assault cases and only three full rape cases.

“I’m almost positive there are more,” Marvin said. “But when you go through the process, you know, it’s very impersonal.

On top of the examination, reporting and testifying process, he said four times out of ten, children who are victims will lose the support of their guardian. He said this is particularly common when the attacker is a family member or a close family friend.

Danielle George, a case worker for Dallas, Perry and Wilcox counties said it is not at all uncommon for the victims she deals with to not want to file reports because the attacker is on the inside.

“With the victims I’ve seen, it’s past sexual assault,” George said. “It’s incest. There’s shame that comes with that, on top of the shame that already comes with the actual sexual assault.

Case workers with the Lighthouse Counseling Center aim to provide a safe, supportive environment for the victims of rape and other forms of sexual assault, through its Standing Together Against Rape (STAR) program. While they cannot and do not force victims to go through the process of taking a forensic exam and pursuing legal action, they do provide the support and resources to do so. Case workers said, currently, once a victim decides call authorities about a sexual assault, they have to go to the hospital, then be transported to Downtown Montgomery for the exam, a process that can take all day, depending on where they are coming from.

The center is preparing to launch what it’s calling a Rural Expansion Project for STAR. Staff members are preparing two mobile units to be taken to rural counties that will provide the forensic exams, as well as other center services to victims, so they do not have to travel all the way to Montgomery.

While there is no concrete launch day, the center’s executive director said it will launch in the coming months.

If you, or someone you know, is being sexually abused or raped, you can call the crisis hotline at 800-650-6522 or 334-206-2100.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved. 

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