April is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness Month. Esperanza House, a United Way agency, wants you to know that it is available to assist any sexual assault or child abuse victims.Â The nonprofit has been in Roswell since 1992.
â€œA lot of people arenâ€™t familiar with sexual assault,â€ Michael Turner, Esperanza House executive director, said.Â â€œThere are ways of preventing it. We encourage everybody to learn more about it.â€
Turner said Esperanza House treats about 50 sexual assault cases every year. He said statistically thatâ€™s only a fraction of the possible 500 unreported cases that happen annually.
â€œOnly one in 10 sexual assaults is reported.Â The key is to report it â€” make that call,â€ he said.
Turner also encourages peer intervention.
â€œIf you see something wrong, get involved,â€ he said.
Some common reasons why sexual assault goes unreported include fear, revealing that the attacker is a family member, law enforcement involvement and the threat of retaliation.Â Teens and adults over the age of consent are not required to report an assault to law enforcement.
â€œIn that case, that is the victimâ€™s choice,â€ Turner said. â€œBut with children, thatâ€™s a different story.â€
Turner also said those with questionable citizenship status are usually fearful of reporting an assault.
â€œIf they become a sexual assault victim, they become concerned about immigration finding out that theyâ€™re here and theyâ€™re undocumented,â€ he said.Â â€œOur position here at Esperanza House is that we, under no circumstances, ever inquire about their immigration status. Thatâ€™s not our business.â€
Services offered by Esperanza House include digital fingerprinting, forensic interviews, SANE project, school outreach programs and victim advocacy.Â The agency often works with the Roswell Refuge and CASA.
In the digital fingerprinting program, children are fingerprinted, photographed and have their information stored on a disk and in hard copy, for the purpose helping law enforcement and others find a child in the event of an abduction.
Forensic interviews at Esperanza House are conducted by Esperanza staff and help law enforcement and social service workers investigate assault cases.
The SANE program provides immediate response, treatment and comprehensive forensic evaluations by a certified nurse to victims of sexual assault. Call the SANE hotline 622-SANE (7263), for confidential assistance from a trained professional.
Esperanza House services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nurse and victim advocates are on-call to provide counseling to victims at no charge.
According to Turner, federal and state budget cuts have cut the non-profitâ€™s funding by $100,000 over the past few years. Heâ€™s urging members of the community to make any type of donation to the agency.
For more information about Esperanza House, 305 W. Tilden, call 625- 1095.