WUFT News

Alachua County Rape, Crisis Center Works To Battle Sexual Assault

By on October 30th, 2013

The incomplete picture of sexual violence in the community may become more complete.

Sixty percent of sexual assault cases for both males and females are unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Florida has been working to provide local communities with the resources to deal with these crimes.

“The state of Florida breaks up the coverage,” said Laura Kalt, violent crimes advocate at the victim services in the Gainesville Police Department. “They want every area of Florida to have a certified rape crisis center. This means in some areas like ours, we end up serving multiple counties.”

The Alachua County Rape and Crisis Center serves Alachua, Bradford and Union counties.

Kalt said the center puts on “risk reduction activities.” Like outreach programs, the center engages different facets of the community in an effort to educate residents about sexual assault and resources available to victims.

This week, the center is visiting a middle school to talk about bullying and sexual assault, she said.

Kalt said the center goes to agencies as well, such as Bradford County’s health department, during staff meetings to update the people who are providing health care on the issue. Then, if they have a sexual assault victim come in, the staff will know what services there are to offer.

Karissa Singh, intern at the University of Florida’s Police Department Office of Victim Service, has worked directly with sexual assault victims at the University of Florida. She said the causes for sexual assault in the community are complicated, which contributes to the confusion over what sexual assault is.

“It’s that person’s decision to take advantage of someone who is intoxicated or ignore someone say no or ignore someone not responding,” she said. “And it’s really up to the victim whether they want to talk about it or not. I feel like a lot of people end up sitting in denial.”

Singh and Kalt aim to get the message across that although sexual assault in the community is present and complicated, the centers are equipped with the resources to deal with each unique case.

Kalt said the rape crisis center and GPD are pushing the bystander intervention idea, which is the idea that anyone might be able to intervene on behalf of someone, especially if it’s someone who may be vulnerable due to intoxication.

All three counties are participating in campaign-related public service announcements, she said.

“A lot of times we find out after sexual assault that people around them were concerned and that someone in that party or group was hovering or acting aggressively,” Kalt said. ” … One of the things we try to do is talk about any one of us and how we could try to speak up.”

Sexual assault, often illustrated with shock-value statistics, is an issue people like Kalt and Singh hope to battle by providing efficient resources.

“We provide the options,” Kalt said. “We want to be a resource for people in this community to sort through a lot of questions and decide what they want to do. We want them to decide for themselves.”

Singh has seen first-hand the effects of sexual assault in the community.

“People seem to shut down in the sense that, yeah, they keep going on with their daily lives because they need to feel normal,” said Singh. “It becomes difficult to focus on work or school because when you start thinking your mind wanders to that incident and it settles there and you end up living through it all over again.”


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