Q&A with Heather Carr
City of Residence: Bonaire
Occupation: Prevention coordinator, Hodac Inc.
QUESTION: April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. How is Hodac involved with sexual assault issues?
ANSWER: We provide a host of direct services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Houston and Peach counties. Its part of what Hodac does.
QUESTION: Define sexual assault -- and whats its scope in Houston/Peach?
ANSWER: In 2012, there were 121 sexual assault incidents reported to law enforcement. Bear in mind these assaults are always severely under reported. Incidents include sexual battery, which reflects inappropriate contact with intimate parts of the body; rape; obscene Internet contact; and statutory rape.
QUESTION: Obscene Internet contact?
ANSWER: Theres a really technical legal definition, but basically, it involves making online contact with explicit sexual communication or pictures.
QUESTION: What services do you provide victims?
ANSWER: Essentially, crisis intervention and support services. Were not emergency, first-responders, but as part of both counties sexual assault response teams were available immediately after an assault.
QUESTION: How do you get word?
ANSWER: Most often, were called by hospital emergency rooms but also by law enforcement, district attorneys and others. People also call us or walk through our doors, sometimes long after the incident. We get referrals from family and friends as well as other service agencies.
QUESTION: Then what?
ANSWER: We meet with victims. They may have just experienced the assault and might be beaten and bloodied. Keep in mind these arent statistical incidences, these are individual people -- real people like you and me -- whove experienced an unthinkable, horrible, horrible violent crime.
QUESTION: Right. And ...
ANSWER: First and foremost we provide emotional support and tailored services to the person. We let victims -- people -- know the range of emotions theyre feeling is normal even if theyre new and abnormal to them.
Were technically not counselors but provide ongoing counsel, services and referrals to services for short or long periods of time. We provide what you could call accompaniment assistance and advocacy support. We help with things from safety planning and changing locks, which can be a great comfort, to ongoing emotional support and potential emergency financial, food and shelter assistance. We accompany clients to lawyers and medical professionals if needed. There are so many things we do. Clients may be so traumatized they cant make heads or tails of it all, so we walk with them through it.
QUESTION: What about less direct services?
ANSWER: First, understand we provide direct services to family and friends close to the victim as well. Theyre victims, too. And we dont work in a vacuum. We have many service partners like the Salvation Army Safe House here, the Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia in Macon, Rainbow House Childrens Resource Center, DFACS, and many others. Rainbow House deals in a similar way with children; we work with males 12 and up and girls above menses.
QUESTION: It sounds like the direct services you offer go beyond the 121 people the incident reports indicate.
ANSWER: Oh yes, well beyond that. Many times over.
QUESTION: Back to other services.
ANSWER: We work to increase sexual assault awareness and provide prevention education. We have ongoing programs plus sponsor special events like the traveling spoken art exhibit that was Saturday featuring portraits of sexual abuse victims with their recorded stories. We had related sessions following that.
We operate a statewide hotline with 24/7 information and referral services.
QUESTION: Whats the main thing sexual assault victims should know?
ANSWER: You are not alone. There is help and support out there. Were here for you.
QUESTION: If anyone needs your services or education and prevention information, what should they do?
ANSWER: Contact Hodac at 478-953-5675. Our website is www.hodac.org. The statewide hotline number is the Georgia Crime Victim Assistance Helpline 800-338-6745. But remember, if youre in an emergency situation, call 911.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.