Assault Crisis Center doors opened at SABRA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2005

In 2002, 1,567 women in Alabama reported being raped. 38 of these women lived in Dallas County.

Because it is estimated that only 16% of rapes are actually reported, a possible 8,227 rapes in Alabama went unreported during that year.

To help promote understanding about sexual assault and its prevention, and to increase the public’s understanding about sexual violence, April was declared Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Rape is not about lust or passion. It is a violent crime, and it is about one person having control over another,” said Sabrah Agee, Selma and Black Belt Region Abuse (SABRA) Sanctuary Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Prevention Educator. “Most people think of rapists as strangers lurking in the bushes, but most rapes occur by people that you know. With the advent of date rape drugs, it happens even more.”

SABRA Sanctuary recently opened the doors to its new Sexual Assault Crisis Center.

“We’ve probably been finished with it for about three weeks, but we have been trying for the last year to get everything ready,” said Agee.

In addition to a waiting room, the center has a “state-of-the art” examination room, showering facilities, and clothing closets where rape victims can receive fresh clothes.

“Our goal actually is to have all rape exams done here in the center instead of going to the emergency room,” said Pat Anthony, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Coordinator. “It (the emergency room) is not as private, and if an emergency is going on, it is hard for nurses to pull away, even though a rape is a priority.”

“We have a colposcope, which allows us to magnify and take pictures of vaginal bruises or abrasions,” said Anthony. “They teach you that after 24 hours, you won’t be able to see much evidence of rape, but with the colposcope, you will be able to visualize tearing or bruising for up to seventy-two hours after the rape.”

According to Anthony, it is very important that the “rape kits” be collected properly so that they can be used to help find and prosecute rapists.

Although SABRA Sanctuary has a twenty-four hour crisis hotline, Agee said the best thing to do is to call 911.

According to her, the police will either refer the victim to the crisis center, or to the hospital if they need addition medical care.

“Our rape crisis volunteer will meet the person here, or at the hospital,” said Agee. “Our volunteer will be with the victim throughout the exam, and will also be there to answer questions for family members. But, her main concern is the victim – reassuring the victim and helping her in any way that she can.”

She is, however, aware of the people who most often suffer through rape silently.

“There are men who are victims of domestic violence or rape, but like women, or probably more so, men will have difficulty admitting it,” said Agee. “If we have men who call, we don’t ignore them. We try to find a place were they can be safe. But, our main concern is women and children victims because most of the time, they are most helpless.”

“The only way we are going to stop violence against women is education,” said Agee. “We start early to continue to send the message that violence against women will not be tolerated.”

Originally named the Salvation Army Black Belt Region Abuse Haven (Sabrah House), the first domestic violence shelter in the Dallas County area began in 1991 as a partnership between the Salvation Army and concerned citizens.

After it became evident that an independent shelter would better serve the county and the surrounding communities, the SABRA Sanctuary was created in 1994.

Since its establishment, the SABRA Sanctuary has served victims of domestic violence, and has maintained a 24 hour crisis line. In 2000, SABRA began operating a sexual assault crisis center where rape evidence is collected by trained sexual assault nurse examiners, and rape victims receive medical care, advocacy, and counseling.

In addition, SABRA offers programs for its service areas such as prevention education, child advocacy, court advocacy, and volunteer rape crisis advocates.

“If anyone is interested in volunteering to be a rape crisis advocate, we do periodic training,”said Agee.

Registered nurse volunteers for the Sexual Assault Crisis Center are also needed. Nurses who volunteer to be sexual assault nurse examiners receive 40 hours of training and 40 C.E.U. credits.

To volunteer to be a rape crisis advocate or a sexual assault nurse examiner, please contact Agee at (334) 877-4384.

If you, or someone you know, has been sexually assaulted, please call the local police or sheriff’s office, or SABRA Sanctuary’s 24-hour crisis line at (334) 874-8711.

For more information about sexual assault, please contact the Alabama Coalition Against Rape at www.acar.org.