Assistance available for sexual assault victims
Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 18, 2015
This is the second in a series on sexual assault.
Once a sexual assault has been reported to law enforcement, representatives from advocacy groups step in to guide victims through their ordeals.
Anita Sumrall, with the Pearl River County District Attorney’s Office, is the victims assistance coordinator and works with victims of violent crimes.
“We work with victims from the moment the file is reported to the police until the case is brought to court,” Sumrall said.
Sumrall becomes involved after she is contacted by the victim or when she is referred by law enforcement.
The closest facilities for victims in Pearl River County are located in Hattiesburg and Biloxi, Sumrall said.
“We refer victims to the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence in Biloxi and The Shafer Center in Hattiesburg,” Sumrall said. “Both offer services and programs for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and survivors of homicide. Everything about a victim is kept confidential.”
Sumrall also refers victims to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Program.
According to the AG’s website, this program provides a toll free information and referral hotline, assistance in obtaining victims rights, assistance with the Crime Victim Compensation Application, criminal justice and court related services, crisis intervention, information about the Mississippi Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, notification of Court of Appeal and Supreme Court decisions and personal advocacy and support services.
“The AG’s program also cover the costs of the sexual assault exam,” Sumrall said. “They also offer financial compensation for medical expenses.”
This summer, a new program will be opening in Hattiesburg that will provide services to children in Pearl River County who are victims of sexual and physical violence.
Kids Hub Executive Director Didi Ellis said the program will furnish aide to children and family members not involved in the offense.
“We will provide a forensic interview, which is done at the request of law enforcement, when there are allegations of child abuse,” Ellis said. “The interview gives the child an opportunity to talk about their experiences in a non-leading, unbiased and fact-finding nature. Law enforcement and DHS are present and observe through a closed circuit television to gain information from the child.”
Ellis said the group will act as an advocate and liaison for the children and their non-offending caregivers. The group will provide advocacy, follow-ups, proper mental and medical health services and answer questions that non-offending caregivers have about the well being of their child.
“We will educate them and provide any resources they need,” Ellis said. “We are essentially a hand-holding group, there to walk them through the process.”
Kids Hub is tentatively scheduled to move into their offices in June and will be able to see children in July or August. Kids Hub will provide services to victims in seven counties.
Seeking help for sexual assault is a very personal decision for some people, Sumrall said.
“It’s important to seek therapy and counseling,” Sumrall said. “It’s helpful to talk to someone who does not judge you in any form. Yes, it happened, but it doesn’t define the rest of your life. You can still have a wonderful life.”
Sumrall can be contacted at 601-403-2356.
For more information about Kids Hub, contact Ellis at 601-441-1489, through email at email@example.com and visit the website at www.kidshubms.com.
For more information about the services offered through the Mississippi’s Attorney General’s Office visit the website at www.ago.state.ms.us/wpcontent/uploads/sites/27/2014/02/VictimsGuide2014.pdf and by phone at 1-800-829-6766.