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Sexual assault center opens doors

By Ed Brock

The new home for the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center may be in a bunker, but the staff want everybody to feel welcome.

So on Oct. 21 the SCSAC staff will swing wide the doors of their new home in the former Clayton County Emergency Management/911 center on McDonough Street in Jonesboro. Prior to the move in June they had been helping victims of sexual assault from Clayton, Henry, and Fayette counties at their much smaller offices in the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.

”The reason why we're so excited about this space is that it has plenty of room for our staff and our clients,“ said Jennifer Bivins, SCSAC president. ”And people were very uncomfortable and intimidated going to the courthouse.“

To soften up the low, almost fortified look of the center, which is next door to the Clayton County Police Headquarters and 911 Center, Bivins and her staff have been planting trees and plants that were donated by Walker Nursery in Jonesboro. Inside they have home furnishings bought at a good price from Rhodes Furniture.

At the same time, the building is very secure, with keypad entry and newly installed security cameras. Inside they have a large conference room that can be used for meetings, training and public events.

Bivins said they do have to share the conference room with the county's office of voter registration around election time, but otherwise they have it all to themselves.

Another added improvement is the connection of the center's crisis line to the new office so victims of sexual assault can call the center directly at (770) 477-2177 during the day. Previously the crisis line went to an answering service at all times, Bivins said.

”This allows for a quicker response time,“ Bivins said.

The answering service will still be used at night.

Originally the center operated from a home on Walt Stephens Road but in November 2003 they had to move to the justice center on Tara Boulevard to save money. The offices there were small and when Bivins learned that the EMA bunker was available she went to the county government for permission to lease it.

The building also once housed the county police department's criminal investigation unit before the new headquarters was completed.

Also, the center is planning to hold a softball tournament on Nov. 4 and 5 at Lovejoy Regional Park to raise funds for its operations. They have 10 teams signed up already.

”We need teams to sign up and we also need sponsors,“ Bivins said.

The cost of entering the double elimination tournament is $200 and the deadline for registering a team or a sponsorship is Oct. 24. Call (770) 603-4045 for more information.