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CONTACT Rape Crisis Center provides resources for victims and families

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Imagine there’s no sexual assault, abuse or harassment. That is the kind of world CONTACT of Huntington Rape Crisis Unit envisions for the community. In a world where darkness seems to always win, CONTACT inspires hope by supporting survivors, spreading awareness and providing educational tools to teach the community.

According to West Virginia Health Statistics Center, one in six adult women and one in 21 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes, 64.8 percent of those victims are juveniles, most under the age of 15. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. It also reports that every eight minutes that victim is a child. Child Protective Services reports 63,000 children a year are victims of sexual abuse.

Founded in 1970, CONTACT was originally a faith-based organization offering services via a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline, reassurance line, a parent’s helpline and the rape crisis counseling team. In 1983, CONTACT joined West Virginia Rape Information and Services as one of the nine rape crisis centers in the state, and in 2001, CONTACT became a rape crisis center.

The organization is no longer faith-based and now focuses on providing prevention information to the community. CONTACT has prevention programs for pre-school age children all the way to college age/adults. Along with these programs, CONTACT also provides new student orientation for colleges, employee orientation, Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes, resident advisor training and professional development training.

“Until we can talk about it, there’s no hope of reducing it,” said Liz Deal, CONTACT assistant director, to WSAZ.

CONTACT’s advocacy does not stop with distributing information. The crisis center also provides support for those who have been affected by sexual violence. Its crisis hotline is available 24-hours. Any survivor, loved one of a survivor or professionals who support survivors may call.

Hospital advocates are also available 24 hours a day to provide support during the medical examination and evidence collection process. Not only do the advocates provide emotional support but also provide personal care kits as well.

CONTACT gives kits to victims in the emergency room when a victim’s clothing is being held by the police as evidence. These kits contain clothing, new underwear, flip flops and personal hygiene items. Advocates also make sure the victim is aware of their rights and that those rights are protected. Furthermore, CONTACT advocates can provide support throughout the civil and criminal justice processes.

After the crisis, CONTACT provides advocates who continue being available to offer practical emotional support for the victim and their loved ones. These services include talking on the phone or in person, helping to file for protective orders, housing or pantry services, making a call to connect victims with other service agencies and offering stalking safety planning and resources.

CONTACT relies on community volunteers to fulfill its mission. Volunteering at CONTACT can come in many different forms. Volunteers are needed to staff the 24-hour hotline, help with clerical work at the office, assist at public awareness events and create special projects to highlight the mission of the crisis center.

The impact the community makes on the crisis center does not stop there. CONTACT is largely dependent upon community contributions to provide these services to survivors, as all its services are provided free of charge.

CONTACT’s toll-free 24-hour hotline can be called at 866-399-7273. All services are free and confidential.

Financial income also comes from CONTACT’s annual fundraiser, which took place Sunday at the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. The event featured wine, music, food and a silent auction. All the proceeds went toward the services CONTACT provides for survivors.

Sharon Pressman, CONTACT executive director, said the event was the most successful to date.

“All funds raised will go toward supporting CONTACT’s work of providing free and confidential advocacy to people who have experienced sexual assault or stalking in Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Mingo and Wayne counties,” said Liz Deal, CONTACT Assistant Director.

Ginny Blake can be contacted at [email protected]

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