This article is one in a series of stories focusing on local agencies that receive support from the United Way of Chaves County, which is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign.
Esperanza House provides a vital service to the community. The organization deals with sensitivity with some of the most difficult off all crimes, the sexual abuse of children and sexual assaults upon adults, under any name from criminal sexual penetration to criminal sexual contact.
“Esperanza House was created by a group of ladies who got together and saw the need,” said Executive Director Mike Turner.
The organization was formed in 1992. It became a 501(c)3 in 1993.
“During the first year, we worked under the United Way’s 501(c)3,” said Turner. He was on the original Board of Directors for Esperanza House. He became an employee in 1996.
Esperanza House does the forensic interviews and forensic exams of victims. It operates the SANE program, which stands for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Qualified nurses must be registered with a minimum of three to five years experience. They take an intensive 6-day class, undergo a mentorship where they work with other nurse examiners. The nurses must also take a certain number of continuing education units to maintain their SANE status.
The organization also operates the SART program. SART stands for the Sexual Assault Response Team, which includes nurses, law enforcement and victims advocates.
Rapes and sexual abuse are among the most under-reported of all crimes. The Rape, Assault, Incest National Network website says that less than half of all cases are reported to the police or any other government agency. According to RAINN statistics, of 100 rapes, only 46 will get reported to the police. Only 12 of the crimes reported will lead to an arrest; five will result in felony conviction and only three of the perpetrators will spend any time in prison.
Locally, Esperanza House will see 60 to 70 adult victims in a year while child abuse cases range from 150 to 175 cases each year. Of these only a few will go to court. Turner explained that the victims, young and old alike, must face fear resulting from threats of the criminals. In addition, they feel shame associated with the crimes.
“Many choose not to make a police report, and many who file a report choose not to prosecute. We try to stay neutral. We help them out whether they choose to report it or not,” Turner said.
Esperanza House supplies whatever resources the victim may require, from individual counseling to transportation to medical treatment for STDs contracted as a result of the crime. The organization’s phones are answered 24 hours a day.
Turner said sexual assault is one of the most difficult types of cases to prosecute. Many people still adhere to the old myth that sexual assault and sexual abuse of children are sex crimes. “This not a sex crime. It’s a violent crime. It’s all about power and control,” said Turner.
He praised United Way for their support of Esperanza House. “United Way makes the whole community stronger. We’ve lost a lot of funding through the years, but we can always count on United Way.”
Although Esperanza House has offices in both Roswell and Artesia, he noted that money donated in Chaves County goes to support the Roswell offices. “The funds have always been there. They have not decreased during the recent economic downturn.” Turner added.
He and other members of the staff speak at schools to help educate children about how to recognize and deal with inappropriate behavior. They are also available to give talks to any interested group.
“It’s important to get the word out.”
For more information, contact 575-625-1095.