It is often too easy to turn a blind eye to the problems facing our community. Sexual assault is one issue that is chronically under-reported because victims often feel too scared or somehow responsible. The Wellspring is working to change this statistic through the use of volunteer advocates.
According to Wellspring statistics, 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by their eighteenth birthday. In Ouachita Parish, the Wellspring receives eighty to ninety calls a year from victims.
The Wellspring's volunteer advocates meet with victims in hospital emergency rooms to help comfort and guide them through the difficult reporting process.
"The forensic nurse is there to do her job -- to collect the evidence.The officer is there to take the statements, but that advocate is there for the victim -- to let them know that it's not their [the victim's] fault, and that there is counseling available." says Wellspring representative Yolanda Bias.
Bias says that reporting the assault can be a traumatic experience, due to the ways the victim must recount their experience to several hospital staff and the police.
"Just having someone their to hold their hand and tell them 'It's not your fault' can make a world of difference for the victim," says Bias.
Advocate training consists of 40 hours of classroom, online, and one on one instruction. The Wellspring hosts an information meeting on September 8 at the Family Justice Center, at 620 Riverside Drive in Monroe.
More information about the Wellspring's Sexual Assault Advocate Program, the Big Brother/Big Sister Program, and the other services Wellspring provides is available by calling 323-1505, or by visiting the website.