Someplace Safe handles more than domestic violence casesWhen you hear someone talk about Someplace Safe, many think of domestic violence victims. But what about victims of sexual assault? Or victims of any other general-type of crime such as arson, robbery, identity theft, harassment or even property crime?
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
When you hear someone talk about Someplace Safe, many think of domestic violence victims.
But what about victims of sexual assault? Or victims of any other general-type of crime such as arson, robbery, identity theft, harassment or even property crime?
If your house was robbed and you felt victimized, where would you turn? If someone is stalking you, where would you go to get help?
Someplace Safe of Alexandria does more than offer support and help to those suffering through domestic violence situations.
Someplace Safe also serves victims of sexual assault and general crime, which is something the public may not have been aware of, noted Tina Gray-Siebers, an advocate at Someplace Safe in Alexandria.
In more than 80 percent of reported cases, sexual assault, which is most often referred to as rape, is typically perpetrated by someone the victim knows, said Gray-Siebers.
But unfortunately, not all cases are reported.
“Lately, it seems that people aren’t reporting it, which is strange, because we know it’s still happening,” she said. “If it ever feels uncomfortable and not right, I strongly encourage people to report it. But ultimately, it’s their choice.”
Most victims of sexual assault are women between the ages of 18 and 44, but Gray-Siebers noted that there are many children who are sexually assaulted as well.
She noted that one in four girls, by the time they are 18 years old, would be sexually assaulted. For boys, the statistics show one in six will be sexually assaulted.
From February of 2007 to September of 2008, Someplace Safe provided services to 62 primary victims of sexual assault. Primary victims are those who were violated. It also provided services to 31 secondary victims, which includes parents and/or friends of the victims.
For victims of sexual assault, Gray-Siebers reiterated that although it’s important for victims to report the crime, it’s more important for them to seek medical attention and at the very least, have evidence collected.
“Getting medical attention doesn’t mean it has to be reported,” she said. “It’s a good idea to have the evidence preserved if victims change their mind and later want to report it.”
She offered suggestions if someone is sexually assaulted and has plans to report it: Don’t shower; don’t change clothes; and don’t clean up.
If penetration is involved, evidence can be collected up to 72 hours later, she said, noting that the key, however, is to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
In addition to reporting the incident, Gray-Siebers strongly encourages victims to find someone to talk to, to share what happened.
Victims, she noted, should never go through it alone. Communication is a key part of healing, she added.
Someplace Safe has a crisis line in place (1-800-974-3359) and advocates are able to be at the medical facility if victims want them to be.
In addition, advocates can be there to listen to the victims or offer support; they can explain what is going to happen; attend court hearings; help with restraining orders; or even help with the medical process, she said.
“We can be their support system,” said Gray-Siebers. “However, we don’t offer counseling services. But we can give them referrals for the resources they need.”
She also stressed that the services provided by Someplace Safe are confidential.
The list of what constitutes criminal crime is long and includes everything from arson to property damage. Gray-Siebers said general crime is any crime that isn’t sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence.
Property crime or harassment-type crimes are probably the most common, she said.
Advocates at Someplace Safe can offer many services to victims of general crime, including help to get a restraining order, help with insurance claims and getting help with reparations and offering tips so that the crime doesn’t happen again. They can also help with collection agencies and getting assistance with medical bills.
From February of 2007 through September of 2008, Someplace Safe made contact with or offered services to 1,360 primary victims of general crime and 20 secondary victims.
“There are more [victims] out there, but we may have had no way to contact them,” she said. “And for some, we may not be able to help them, but we are here to listen and offer suggestions or tips to help them get through the situation as best as possible so that it doesn’t happen again.”
For more information about Someplace Safe, call (320) 762-1995. The 24-hour crisis line is 1-800-974-3359 and the toll-free emergency shelter number is 1-866-223-1111.
Information can also be found on Someplace Safe’s Web site at www.someplacesafe.info.
WHAT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT?
Sexual assault is any sexual activity involving a person who does not or cannot consent. It can be many things, including rape, sexual contact (touching or grabbing), obscene phone calls, exposing, sexual abuse of children, incest, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation of clients by professionals.
Sexual assault is an act of violence, with the use of weapons, physical force or threats. The violence can also be subtle, as when a position of authority, age, size or status is used to trick, scare or manipulate the victim.
Sexual assault is about power, control and anger. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault.
Source: Someplace Safe
WHAT IS GENERAL CRIME?
General crime is any crime that isn’t sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence.
General crime includes, but is not limited to, arson, robbery, stalking, assault, fraud, hate crimes, homicide, identity theft, theft and burglary, harassment, property crime, terroristic threats, vehicular homicide, kidnapping and elder abuse.