April is sexual assault awareness month, advocates say help is available

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – April is sexual assault awareness month and in Savannah, advocates want survivors of sexual violence to know that help is available.

“We’re here for them and we have a 24 hour crisis hotline,” said Doris Williams, director of the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire.

The hotline number is 912-233-7273.

Williams acknowledges that talking about sexual assault is difficult but says her organization offers counseling and a variety of services.

“If It happened yesterday, if it happened 30 years ago we still provide the same resources to any survivor of sexual violence,” she said.

Nationwide, a sexual assault can occur every two minutes. One in six women in the U.S. have been victims of assaults or attempted assaults.

Williams says in 2020, 159 assaults were reported to the Rape Crisis Center.

Many survivors choose to have rape kits done and involve law enforcement right away, but Williams says that doesn’t always have to be the case.

“A survivor can do an anonymous kit and law enforcement is not connected to them at all until they are ready, they have a year to make that decision,” she said.

Williams says for those who involve law enforcement that the Rape Crisis Center is “there for them. We are there as they go through the interview process with police (and if someone is arrested and charged) we’re there with them in the courtroom.”

Williams says that calling calling the crisis line can start the process for someone suffering from a recent assault or one that happened in the past.

“Something triggers them because more often than not it’s somebody that you know.” says Williams. “That’s the part that people don’t really realize. I think we prepare in our minds that it’s going to be a stranger but more often than not, it’s somebody that you know.”

She says if prosecution of a perpetrator is still possible, it’s still up to the survivor.

“It’s their decision we don’t encourage them one way or the other,” said Williams. “We’re there to support them in whatever part of the journey that we can towards their empowering and their healing.”

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