Local families in crisis and people who have been subjected to sexual abuse have a new place to turn for help.
“The opportunity presented itself for us to have the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program in-house, and we welcomed it with open arms,” said Katrina Torrez, Grants and Finance Director for the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties. “It is more comfortable and private for our families to come to one facility for family advocacy, for a forensic interview if needed, and now the exam can be done right here as well. Things like this are emotional. Now it is more kid-friendly, and provides the privacy they need to get through it.”
Sexual abuse and assault is not just the problem of large metropolitan areas. Jessi Jones, the county’s forensic nurse examiner, has seen 402 patients from 2011 until September 2021, from an office at Palestine Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Robert Blackwell serves as the medical director overseeing the program. The new medical exam room for the forensic nursing program is located in a newly renovated wing of the Crisis Center, 313 W. Debard, across from the police station.
Remodeling continues to make the new exam center ideal for this purpose, including the addition of a waiting room, a bathroom and improved security in the dedicated medical exam area.
Donations totaling $10,000 have already been raised by the generosity of private donors and friends.
On Friday afternoon, Blankets and Bears of Anderson County presented a check for $5,000 which will be used to continue the vision.
“Blankets and Bears has supported this program for years,” Jones said. “They’ve helped finance room remodels, the forensic interview room, they have funded equipment for the forensic medical exam room and helped us address unique individual needs for some of my patients, over $40,000 already. I’m thankful to know that when I have a specific need, there are people I can call on.”
Indeed, most of the board members of the Blankets and Bears program have a personal connection related to this issue.
Co-founder Jackson Hanks pointed out a grim truth about childhood abuse.
“National statistics were awful before COVID, and they’re worse now,” he said.
“We want to help create change in the community,” said President Jenea Goodwin. “Life after abuse can be good. There is hope.”
“Our goal is to do what is best for our clients and their families,” Torrez said. “This is the first step to healing, and we see them through to the end, including family advocacy and counseling. And all our services are free to our clients.”
The Crisis Center office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but any time there’s an outcry of abuse and law enforcement becomes involved, they can have staff there after hours or on weekends.
The Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties is a non-profit 501-C3.