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Hampton home to become refuge for victims of sexual assault


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  One of downtown Hampton's historic houses is being transformed into a refuge for victims of sexual assault in Henry and adjoining counties.

This historic Hampton home will serve as the new satellite facility of the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center, providing victims of sexual assault with a safe place to stay.
                                                       Photo by Monroe Roark

  The property will soon be a satellite facility of the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center, which was created in 1994 and is based in Jonesboro. After operating for several years out of then-District Attorney Bob Keller's office, the organization became a separate 501c3 nonprofit in 2000 to become better equipped to serve the surrounding community. After expanding into Henry and Fayette counties at that time, the Center added four more counties (Butts, Lamar, Pike and Spalding) in 2009.

  The needs of that entire region are partly responsible for locating this facility in Hampton, according to Gayla Nobles, the center's executive director.

  In 2012 the organization applied to become an official child advocacy group for Henry County, as there is no such group in either Henry or Fayette, both of which have been identified as unserved areas by the Children's Advocacy Centers of Georgia. The facility, staff and funding are now being put in place to make this location a child advocacy center.

  “Now that we are going into child advocacy, we really need community support,” said Nobles.

  The Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center has satellite offices in Pike and Spalding counties in office space that is shared with other organizations, but nothing like what is being established in downtown Hampton, in a spacious house first built in 1866 and currently owned by the city, which will lease it to the center.

  One significant feature of this facility is that it will have a forensic medical program, which means victims can be examined without going to a hospital. An emergency room visit for any reason can often mean a long wait, and it is especially uncomfortable after an assault, when law enforcement personnel are on hand and victims are painfully aware of the attention they may be getting from others in the ER. Often a victim will simply get up and leave without reporting the incident or getting proper treatment.

  The center's location in Hampton will have specially-trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) on hand to collect the evidence commonly known as the rape kit. This service will be available for children as well as adults. The SANE personnel and other staff will be on call around-the-clock.

  Local prosecutors and leaders in the law enforcement community are extremely pleased that this facility is coming online.

  “They recognize the need to have a better process for victims,” said Nobles. “They understand that very well.”

  Some Henry Countians are served at the center's Clayton County headquarters, but that location is understandably overwhelmed at times just serving Clayton County victims.

  The new facility in Hampton is especially important for children because young victims in Henry County and the surrounding area must be taken either to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta or a sexual assault center in Macon, both of which are a considerable distance from here. Hospitals around the region typically will not perform child exams or child interviews because they are not properly trained to do so, Nobles said.

  Having a crime victim whose body is essentially a crime scene creates an entirely new dilemma for an emergency room that is often swamped already, according to Nobles, and a rape exam, once started, must be completed without interruption; the doctor cannot be called away for a heart attack victim or some other patient.

  The new facility will have an interview room for talking to victims in a child-friendly atmosphere as well as the appropriate examination area that will cut victims' wait times significantly.

  “For an adult, I can't imagine the wait time here being more than two hours, start to finish,” said Nobles, while adding that she expects more children than adults to be treated here based on recent Department of Family and Children's Services (DFACS) statistics.

  “I think it will be a good situation for everybody, especially the victims.”

  Right now the organization is targeting April 1 as a possible opening date, although the community will be notified when the actual date is determined, and an open house-type event will be scheduled. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Prevent Child Abuse Month.

  The Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center operates in seven counties on a $350,000 total budget, with that money coming from federal, state and local funds as well as some foundation funding. As part of the Violence Against Women collaborative in Henry County, the organization has fostered an excellent working relationship with law enforcement and prosecutors, who were hugely influential in the decision to establish the Hampton facility as a way to eliminate recognized gaps in service and improve the process for so many victims.

  But they are looking for help from the public as well.

  “We need community support," said Nobles. "We need volunteers. We need people to get involved with us. It is a huge undertaking for our community.”

  Visit or call 770-603-4045 for more information on how to get involved.



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