By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
April was Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. As part of their drive to raise awareness, the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP) produced a documentary, “Believe Me – Help and Hope for Sexual Assault Survivors” that aired on KET and is currently available streaming on YouTube. The film shares “powerful stories from sexual assault survivors,” and is an important step in raising awareness of the problem. It might even make someone suffering silently from abuse feel like they aren’t alone.
But it alone isn’t the solution.
What it can be, though, is an invitation to take the next steps towards healing for survivors.
It’s a step that KASAP, a coalition of sexual assault programs and crisis centers, was created to help with.
Kalinda Cade, a licensed psychological associate with Pathways who works in the Carter and Boyd County area, is a part of that coalition, and said she hopes the documentary does raise awareness and encourage those in need to seek assistance.
“The goal of the documentary was to bring awareness mostly to sexual violence; and that it, I believe, happens a lot more commonly than people think,” she said.
“I think part of it too was also to kind of inspire hope,” she added. “People are telling their stories in it, but then at the end, people are also talking about their healing journey.”
It’s a journey that counselors at Pathways, and other organizations who work under the KASAP umbrella, can help with, she said.
“So, people probably are familiar with Pathways being their community mental health center,” Cade said. “They serve the community for mental health and behavioral health needs. But what they may not know is that Pathways also houses one of the 13 regional rape crisis centers.”
“These centers do advocacy work,” she said. “We do prevention, education work. We do counseling services for survivors of sexual assault or sexual abuse. And we do a lot of community outreach and community events to let people know that we’re here for them if they need us.”
That advocacy work, she said, can include accompanying survivors – a term she noticeably chose over victim – to medical exams or law enforcement interviews, and offering emotional support as well as making them aware of their rights and options.
“A lot of the times when I’ve done it, I’ve also kind of been like a go-between, between the survivor and the hospital staff or the survivor and the law enforcement that’s present.”
Her job also extends to educating the staff and law enforcement on how trauma can impact survivors. Law enforcement are there to investigate a crime, and medical staff to treat medical needs – but those are bureaucratic interactions that can be tough to navigate even if you aren’t processing trauma.
“Trauma can affect people in a range of different ways,” she said. “And one of the things that the advocate is really good at doing is bringing that trauma informed perspective into the situation.”
That’s how they can help in the immediate aftermath. In the longer healing process, they can provide a variety of counseling options.
“(We have) specialized therapists that are trained in trauma interventions,” Cade said. “They’re trained in trauma counseling, and they specialize working with that population as well.”
“Our philosophy is that we start by believing… because that’s how you begin that trauma informed healing process,” she explained.
There is no time frame on that healing either. She said some people began counseling right away, others may not seek counseling until some time has passed. No matter when they choose to reach out, she said, there are resources available to help them. All they need to do is reach out to their local Pathways office and ask for victim’s services.
They don’t have to be people who have directly experience sexual assault or abuse either. First responders, parents, teachers, or anyone who has experienced the impact of sexual trauma on others can also have a tough time processing that experience, even years later. Pathways and KASAP are there for them too.
“People are ready when they’re ready,” she said. “There’s no timeline for that. So, we serve all of those folks.”
In addition to calling a Pathways office, you can find them online at the Pathways Victims Services Facebook page. KASAP’s resources can be found online at kasap.org.
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