Jonesboro’s Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center and Child Advocacy Center was originally founded as a court accompaniment service and crisis hotline. But the administrators have long known that the region was in desperate need of a full-service center. After all, before the center’s new services existed, assault survivors had to travel to Atlanta or Macon. This was not only incredibly stressful for already traumatized patients, but difficult for the law enforcement officers who had to leave their jurisdictions to take statements and conduct interviews. Today, because of the center, survivors in Clayton, Fayette, Spalding, and surrounding counties can see expert professionals much closer to home and issues such as maintaining evidence chain of custody are far less complicated. Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center and Child Advocacy Center is truly changing assault care for our region.
What exactly does a sexual assault center do? Some cases begin with a phone call, either from a hospital or from law enforcement, alerting the center of an incoming patient. Others begin much later, well after the assault has occurred, usually because the survivor is too ashamed, too scared, or too traumatized to come forward sooner. Specially-trained nurses conduct a sexual assault examination and gather evidence. Unlike most hospitals, the center has included a fully-functioning shower in the exam room. Once the physical exam is finished, the individual can use the facility and change into clean clothes, an act that can offer some measure of relief in the moment. If law enforcement is not already present, they are brought in to take the survivor’s statement.
The center also conducts forensic interviews with all minors. These interview rooms are video monitored so that law enforcement officials can watch the process without causing the child undue stress, and the center has a direct link to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2014, the center conducted 350 such interviews. That averages out to nearly one child per day.
“Even we didn’t foresee that volume,” admits Dr. Brathwaite.
But all of that is really just the beginning. The center also manages a 24/7 crisis line, continues to offer advocacy and court accompaniment services, connects survivors to financial and other resources, and provides free counseling for all survivors.
“The counseling piece is one of the most important things we do,” says executive director Gayla Nobles. “We’re used to television, where cases like the ones we handle are wrapped up in 60 minutes. In fact, it can take years for a case to move through the court system, and many cases never even go to court. There may not be a guilty verdict and, the fact is that, even if there is, it’s not suddenly ‘over’ for the survivor. We’re there for our patients – and their loved ones – the entire time.”
Because prevention is critical, the center is also active in educational and outreach initiatives. These include seminars for teens, participation in health fairs, and training programs for school and college staffs, community groups, religious institutions, and others.
A not-for-profit organization, the center welcomes donations in any amount and is in constant need of clothing and other items. While their existing services are impressive, there is so much more they would like to offer, from turning the cottage at the rear of the building into a counseling center to acquiring an electronic medical records system. Because they operate with such a lean staff, volunteers are also critical.
Learn more about the center at scsacinc.wix.com
“We’re used to television, where cases like the ones we handle are wrapped up in 60 minutes. In fact, it can take years for a case to move through the court system, and many cases never even go to court.”