What support is available for victims of sexual assault?

Sexual assault cartoon

Finding a place that can help a person dealing with sexual trauma every step of the way is a really important resource to have when struggling. 

There are several resources in Bowling Green including Hope Harbor which works with the WKU counseling center to help sexual trauma victims. 

Hope Harbor is a sexual trauma center that provides support to victims through different resources tailored to what the victim needs.

Mel Gerard is the volunteer coordinator at Hope Harbor and she handles the crisis intervention program. Gerard said their advocacy service helps victims through many steps of the way.

 “Our biggest thing that we offer to people is we have a 24/7 crisis line for them to call,” Gerard said. “We have advocacy services. So whether that’s something is they’re going through the court system, and they need legal services. We have an advocate that will be with them every step of the way to help.” 

Gerard said there is no set process on how Hope Harbor works because it caters to every victim and what they believe is best for them. The process of healing looks different for every individual so Hope Harbor helps find what is best for them.

“It’s really all client-focused, so […] sometimes their healing is through the criminal justice system and that’s their choice,” Gerard said. “Some people may want their healing to be through working through things themselves through therapy, sometimes they want the person who harmed them to know that they’ve caused them harm, so maybe it’s us helping them to write a letter or to reach out to this person whatever that may be.”

All of Hope Harbor’s services are free so anyone worried about confidentiality does not need to worry about family members seeing the insurance changes or any concerns like that.

“I know a lot of times a barrier with a lot of college students is they want to have confidentiality from their parents,” Gerard said. “That’s hard sometimes with insurance and things like that. So all of our services are free, we’re not going to bill your insurance. As long as you’re over the age of 18, we don’t need to have any type of parental issues or anything like that.”

The services are available to anyone experiencing or suffering from any type of sexual trauma. Gerard said Hope Harbor wants to serve a diverse group of people. 

“Our doors are always open no matter who you are, and that we want to help you, no matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, all of those things,” Gerard said. “We’re always working to be more inclusive and I know that’s something that everyone can always strive to reach for.”

Gerard said it’s difficult for less-represented people to find inclusive advocacy and support, but Hope Harbor’s staff makes doing so a priority.

“It is hard statistically to determine those things and especially in a place like a small town like Bowling Green,” Gerard said. “Being able to serve those populations, as well as we can but is something that we’re striving for.”

Hope Harbor works with the WKU counseling department, but students can contact them anytime via the crisis line. 

“We work in tandem with the WKU counseling department.” Gerard said. “WKU students can see us at any time. Our crisis line is available to them.”

If you’re in need of Hope Harbor’s services, its 24/7 hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy