By REBECCA HAZEN
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Sexual Assault Victims Advocacy Center, Inc., located in Ft. Oglethorpe, serves Dade, Catoosa and Walker counties.
The Sexual Assault Victims Advocacy Center (SAVAC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. In 2008, The Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia opened the office in Ft. Oglethorpe. In 2012, that office became its own independent, non-profit agency, which is now SAVAC.
The SAVAC serves victims of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence and human trafficking. The center can also help serve the families of the victims as well.
The services include: a 24–hour crisis line, 24/7 hospital accompaniment, on-site forensic medical exams and crisis intervention.
In addition, SAVAC provides personal advocacy, counseling and support groups, as well as accompaniment for filing a police report and the court process.
The SAVAC also focuses on community outreach and education.
“One of our priorities is educating the community. That’s a big part of our job,” SAVAC Executive Director Kristy Lawson said.
According to Lawson, last year SAVAC served over 262 victims, provided 22 forensic medical exams, and had 400 crisis calls. Those numbers are down from previous years.
Some statistics include: every 73 seconds someone is sexually assaulted. Three out of four of those assaults go unreported.
“That is another area we like to focus on because the victim needs to know there is help out there. They don’t have to report to receive our services. That just shows how many assaults happen, that don’t get reported, and the perpetrator is out there free and continually doing this to other victims,” Lawson said.
In any given month in Georgia, 7,200 men purchase sex from a minor. Eight out of 10 rapes are committed by someone that is known to the victim; it is not always a stranger.
“Just because someone is married doesn’t mean that their spouse can’t sexually abuse them. A person has the right to consent. A lot of times that is why someone doesn’t report,” Lawson said.
Some of the warning signs of domestic violence, or any kind of violence are: jealousy, stalking behaviors and controlling behaviors.
“A lot of it is controlling behavior: controlling what you wear, who you hang out with, where you go, your relationship with your family. Those are all red flags. If you are in a relationship with someone, they should trust you,” Lawson said.
If anyone needs help, they are encouraged to give the SAVAC a call, and there are advocates that can talk to them
If someone needs emergency shelter, SAVAC works with the Family Crisis Center to help provide that. If there is not an opening in a shelter, the SAVAC can help provide a hotel room in the meantime. SAVAC also assists in temporary protection orders.
“Whatever their needs are, our advocates are here to help them,” Lawson said.
“It is important that the community is aware of our center and the services that we provide. That way if they know someone, they can refer them. We are always looking for donations and funding. If we are doing a fundraiser, the community can help by supporting those,” Lawson said.
One way to show support and donate is by purchasing a yard sign for $10. The yard signs say “Consent: Get it. Got It?” The signs can be purchased by calling the SAVAC office.
A free community walk, My Voice Matters: A Walk To End Sexual Violence, will be Friday, April 16 at the Dade County Sports Complex, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a registration sign-up sheet at the walk. No registration in advance is necessary.
For more information, visit savacenterga.org, or call (706) 861-0929. The helpline is (706) 419-8775.