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Sandra Deal visits sexual assault, child advocacy center

Commemorates Prevent Child Abuse Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month

First lady Sandra Deal examines the Dr. Seuss-inspired artwork painted on a rocking chair at the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center in Hampton. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

First lady Sandra Deal examines the Dr. Seuss-inspired artwork painted on a rocking chair at the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center in Hampton. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Staff of the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center pose for photos with first lady Sandra Deal and staff from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

HAMPTON — First lady Sandra Deal studied artwork painted on the back staircase, cascading down with words from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.

The steps read: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

Deal was impressed not only by the art, but by the operations at the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center office in Hampton.

“I just think it’s a wonderful asset for the community and the state,” she said. “I think it’s so warm and inviting. To deal with issues that might not be so pleasant, I think it’s good for there to be a pleasant environment.”

Gayla Nobles is the center’s executive director. She said the center partners with local public safety agencies and hospitals to provide 24-hour crisis response and expeditious sexual assault examinations to victims of child abuse and sexual assault.

The center, based out of Jonesboro, also provides year-round child abuse prevention through the Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children program, which seeks to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors.

Deal’s visit included an entourage of staff from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, who used the visit as an opportunity to get the pulse of the service agency.

Family Violence Grants Specialist Quincie McKibben contributed to conversations about the needs of child abuse and sexual assault centers throughout the state.

A major point in the discussions was the need for child abuse and sexual assault training and certifications among registered nurses.

Angela Guidry works out of Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center’s Hampton office. She is also a Ph.D., an advanced practice registered nurse and a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She said centers often have trouble finding nurses with advanced certifications because they are hard to come by given the nature of obtaining the necessary experience.

Most often nurses get their experience in emergency rooms who welcome on-the-job training but are subjected to the realities of sexual assaults. Guidry said they occur randomly and force working nurses to devote large swaths of time without training in between cases.

Deal said she was glad to learn more about the center and its services and hopes the services continue to expand to support local communities and residents in times of crisis.

Nobles said the visit was on time as the center has been trying to raise awareness of two causes that happen to encompass the center’s mission.

“We’re excited to have Mrs. Deal here in recognition of Prevent Child Abuse Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” she said.

Nobles noted this month is the 20th anniversary for the Jonesboro-based center, opened in April 1994. The Hampton office opened last April.

Call the center at 770-603-4045 or email Nobles at gnobles@scsac.org. A list of the center’s services is at www.scsac.org. Its 24-hour crisis hotline is 770-477-2177.