Lighthouse announces sexual assault program

BY BRUCE BRANUM

The Greenville Standard

Lighthouse representatives and local law authorities in Butler County posed for this picture during a tour of a new response vehicle for sexual assault victims in Butler and Crenshaw Counties. (Bruce Branum | The Standard)

On Tuesday, Jan. 30 the Lighthouse Counseling center expanded its Forensic Sexual Assault Program into the Georgiana Area. They displayed their new clinically equipped recreation vehicle which will be located at the Georgiana Medical Center to local law enforcement officials. Their program will provide free, forensic quality sexual assault examinations to female and male sexual assault victims in Butler and Crenshaw counties. Their services include 24/7 forensic sexual assault examinations by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), a Licensed Counselor, an Advocate to assist victims through the clinical and law enforcement process and a 24/7 crisis hotline. National law enforcement data indicates that 1,844 women (almost 20% of the women in Butler County) will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The same is true of 137 men currently living in Butler County. Data also reveals that one in every nine girls and one of every fifty-three boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18. Their program is staffed by Registered Nurses who are specifically trained on forensic standards of evidence collection, injury detection methods, chain of evidence requirements and the use of specialized equipment that can detect small cuts, bruises and other injuries and photograph them. The National Institute of Justice reports that SANE Program results in a statistically significant increase in prosecution, plea and conviction rates. Reports also show that SANE Programs lead to better psychological outcomes for sexual assault  victims.  The grants Lighthouse Counseling receives also funds training for law enforcement officials; from new recruits to on-going training for experienced officers. Executive Director, Nathan Cook, said, “We are glad to finally get this off the ground. This is the first area in the state to have a mobile RV unit. Our hope is that victims who don’t wish to travel away from their communities to Montgomery or Birmingham will use these and they will become a part of the community. “Our funding partners are ADECA, United Way, ACAR and Family Sunshine who does the counseling and advocacy. Any victim can call 231 and they will be put in touch with S.T.A.R. (Standing Together Against Rape). An on-call nurse will respond within 45 minutes.” Butler County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer said, “This has been a long time coming, they had talked to me about some grants Lighthouse were trying to get. This will save so much time and money and heartache for the victims because when they typically go to emergency rooms there is such a long wait for trained medical technicians. This will be more private and so much more conducive to people reporting assaults.” Greenville Police Chief Justin Lovvorn said, “I think it is a very good resource for the county. Before, we would go to Montgomery, it going to be a lot quicker to respond to the victim and get them the help they need and what we need to complete the case. We are getting the same facilities, the same function and the same quality, it is just closer.” Georgiana Police Cook said, “I think this a great resource to have in the community and will save Butler County a lot of money. It was a collaborative effort between Butler and Crenshaw counties for the grant which funds this unit and it will cut down on victim treatment response time.”

 

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