Volunteers will be trained next week to begin staffing a rape counseling center in Fort Oglethorpe that will be the only dedicated facility for sex crime victims in a five-county region.
“The area is largely underserved,” said Elaine Bradway, project coordinator for the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia’s new facility.
The nonprofit organization has served Chattooga, Gordon, Floyd and Polk counties from its Rome, Ga., headquarters since 1998. The expansion site in Fort Oglethorpe will serve Catoosa, Dade, Murray, Walker and Whitfield counties.
The center will provide 24-hour forensic exams and counseling.
Volunteers are being recruited for a 30-hour course that begins April 29.
Christine Peters, a volunteer counselor since 1996, will work in Fort Oglethorpe. She said she relates to victims because she was sexually assaulted several years ago.
“I can say to them that I really do know some of what they are going through,” Ms. Peters said. “It is extremely rewarding to know that you can give aid and comfort and support to someone who is going through what is possibly the worst experience of their life so far.”
Rape victims now have few options for counseling.
The nearest rape center is on Eighth Street in downtown Chattanooga, operated by the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
The facility doesn’t have funding or the proper equipment for Georgia victims, said Regina McDevitt, director of crisis and homeless services.
“It’s more complicated because Georgia has their own rape kits and Tennessee has their own rape kits,” said Ms. McDevitt said. “The processes are different.”
That means many Georgia victims now have to go to a hospital emergency room, which advocates say is not ideal.
“You’re in the emergency room with gunshot wounds, car wrecks, heart attacks and everything else,” said Melissa Gifford, executive director of the nonprofit Four Points organization, which works with domestic violence victims in Northwest Georgia.
“Having a place to go where there are trained folks who will treat you like you are the only person on the planet, that is what a rape victims needs at the time she is having this exam done.”
HOW TO HELP
Volunteers are being recruited for a 30-hour staffing course to be held April 29 to May 15 in Fort Oglethorpe. Call Elaine Bradway at (423) 364-4688 for more information.