New group to help assault victims
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
A new resource soon will be available for victims of sexual assault, whether the attack happened yesterday or years ago.
What: The Survivors of Rape Trauma (SORT), a 12-week support group.
When: June 26.
Where: Gainesville/Alachua County.
Information: Call 352-392-5648.
Survivors of Rape Trauma (SORT) is a 12-week support group offered by the Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center. The group starts June 26 and is free and confidential for all members.
The group aims to help women who were sexually assaulted as adults and have had some time to begin the healing process, said Ashley Cortez, a victim’s advocate counselor with the crisis center.
The support group will join the list of services available to sexual assault victims in the Gainesville area, including the crisis center.
There, staff guides individuals through the process immediately after the assault. Everyone and anyone, from college students to longtime Gainesville residents, comes in for help, Cortez said.
“It’s not a very discerning crime,” she said. “It affects basically everyone in town.”
Seventeen percent of women in Florida, or 1.2 million women, have been raped at some point in their lifetimes, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey; 41.8 percent of women in Florida, or about 3.1 million, have been victimized by sexual violence other than rape.
Additionally, 20.4 percent of men in Florida, or about 1.4 million, have been victimized by sexual violence other than rape.
Members of the University of Florida community can get help with any kind of victimization — including sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and harassment — from the Office of Victim Services within the University Police Department.
The staff works with people who are affiliated with UF in some way, such as students, faculty and patients at UF Health Shands Hospital, said Laura Templeton, a victim advocate with the office.
Templeton guides individuals through the criminal justice process if they choose to press charges and connects them with resources such as counseling.
“We are not law enforcement, and we don’t force anybody to make a report,” she said. “We listen and believe and then figure out what’s best for that person to move forward and to heal.
“I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do because I want you to get some control,” she said.
Anyone can call the office during daytime hours at 352-392-5648 in cases of emergency, after business hours or on weekends to be connected with a victim advocate.
The most important thing for someone who has been sexually assaulted to do is tell someone they trust, whether that is a victim advocate like herself or a friend, parent or pastor, Templeton said.
“We are aware that there are so many barriers to someone telling anybody,” she said. There are so many fears — “fear of being judged and blamed and scrutinized” — that keep people from speaking up.
Morgan Watkins is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.
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