Jonesboro crisis center expands its reach

Facility to aid in sexual assault exams

JONESBORO — Gayla Nobles is accustomed to quoting the statistic from the nonprofit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“Approximately two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows,” said Nobles, executive director of Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center.

“We have to change the mindset that it’s a person jumping out the bushes,” she said. “They have to be aware of what sexual assault is and where it occurs.”

Nobles sees it firsthand — the recovery process for hundreds of sexual assault victims each year in south metro Atlanta.

RAINN is an anti-sexual assault organization based in Washington, D.C., that publishes stats on sexual assaults as part of its efforts to raise awareness.

The organization also operates a crisis hotline and provides resources to regional assault centers like Jonesboro’s Southern Crescent, which is expanding its services this spring.

Nobles was excited to get a certificate of occupancy Monday for the center’s new Hampton satellite facility, which will also house the Henry County Child Advocacy Center. Neither facility is a shelter and no people will be housed there.

The satellite is set to open in April — National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It will be a 24-hour crisis response center to help expedite sexual assault examinations.

“Rape victims who just reported a sexual assault can have an extended wait at the hospital,” said Nobles, noting victims sometimes wait hours in emergency rooms to have the exams because of other pressing cases.

She said the new facility is designed solely to address sexual assaults with trained nurses and examiners who collect forensic evidence to help find and prosecute offenders.

“I think any time you can streamline the process is good,” she said. “The goal is to reduce the trauma. And certainly, we want to prevent sexual assault.”

Southern Crescent provides ongoing community education, targeting adult and child victims who are dealing with immediate and long term effects of sexual assault.

Nobles said the center reached 8,000 residents through its educational outreach in 2012 by engaging them at colleges, schools, churches, festivals and health fairs.

It also provides advice on laws that protect victims and helps employers develop their sexual harassment policies, she said. It served 410 clients across seven counties in 2012, including 181 from Clayton County and 73 from Henry County.

Trained employees counsel and teach about bullying, dating violence and sexual harassment.

Nobles said the Hampton crisis center is based on models in Rome, Albany, Athens and the Gwinnett Sexual Assault Center in Duluth.

The Duluth center reported higher prosecution rates for sexual assaults as a result of having a sexual assault exam facility, she said.

She added that all law enforcement jurisdictions in the center’s service area have been notified and will be given guidance on the center’s procedures.

The center’s 24-hour crisis hotline is 770-477-2177.