Tales from Utah Valley: Sexual assault in Utah County: Help is here

July 28, 2018

Each piece of paper in this binder represents a survivor of sexual assault who went to the hospital for evidence collection since Jan. 2018 in Utah County alone. Only about 10 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported.

Sexual assault survivors in Utah County are finding the help they need at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, a nonprofit organization located in Orem.

The numbers, unfortunately, are not small. About 100 victims of sexual assault crimes receive services each month at the center. The good news is that the sexual assault team there is helping in a variety of ways.

The crisis team is made up of about 68 volunteers that are on-call for 24-hour shifts. During these shifts, they might be called to a hospital to help a victim of sexual assault. Two volunteers go to the hospital at a time. One is primarily there to support and help the victim through the evidence collection process. The other is there to support the secondary victims – the family and friends. They also provide resources and information about receiving further help.

Each team member carries a backpack when responding to an assault. “In our backpacks, we have a blanket that we give to the survivors, several different sizes of clothes and a resource packet that connects them to different services and information,” said Amy Lindstrom, director of sexual assault services for the center. Sometimes, the victim’s clothing needs to be kept for evidence.

Team members also help the victims with the Crime Victim Reparations Program, which will pay for their medical bills, lost income, etc., according to Lindstrom.

Additionally, the trained team members answer calls that come in through the 24-hour crisis hotline. “It can be totally anonymous,” Lindstrom said about calling the hotline. “We have a surprising amount of people who call and they were assaulted like 20 years before and it is bothering them,” she said. They will get a call back and can be set up with free counseling services, individual therapy and group therapy.

Every Wednesday, a support group/skills education class is held at the center. Anyone is welcome to drop in on these free classes, which are held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at 1433 E. 840 North in Orem. Classes are also held on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month in Heber.

“We offer services also to Juab and Wasatch counties,” Lindstrom said.

The center is always in need of volunteers to be part of the crisis team. Volunteers will go through a 40-hour training.

“The more you learn about it, the more you advocate for victims,” Lindstrom said. Then, each volunteer can decide how many 24-hour on-call shifts they can take. Some do only one each month.

“We have men and women who are volunteers. Our guys on our team are so good. We almost always get responses back from survivors that it was awesome to have a guy who was there in a supportive role who helped to restore their faith in men again. It just helped them know that not all men are perpetrators,” Lindstrom said.

Some of the team members have been victims themselves and want to give back and give hope to survivors.

“One was horribly assaulted two years ago and she came consistently to all of the education classes and counseling programs. Then, she was able to become a volunteer,” Lindstrom said.

Although many of the sexual assault survivors that the center sees are women, they also help men who have been assaulted.

“We get a lot of hotline calls from males,” Lindstrom said. “It’s important to know that it happens to men too.”

The Center for Women and Children in Crisis provides services free of charge to help heal, recover and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.

In 2016, the center assisted 2,088 survivors, took 1,518 crisis calls, provided beds for those who needed help for a total of 16,049 nights and put in 29,666 volunteer hours. There are three therapists at the center who specialize in sexual assault services.

Contact the center at one of its 24-hour hotlines at (801) 377-5500 for domestic violence and (801) 356-2511 for sexual assault. For more information, check out http://cwcic.org. Those interested in becoming volunteers for the crisis team should email ALindstrom@cwcic.org.

Laura Giles is a long-time correspondent for the Daily Herald and a community member living in Pleasant Grove. She can be contacted at LauraCGiles@gmail.com.

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