April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and with that comes an opportunity to dive into the reality and spread awareness around sexual abuse. Sierra Community House is dedicated to serving and empowering our community through a range of vital services, including crisis intervention for survivors of sexual assault. When a survivor calls our Community Helpline, they take a step toward safety and healing.   

Our crisis intervention team sheds light on what unfolds when a survivor reaches out for help. The following steps showcase an example journey that we might take with a survivor. Sierra Community House staff are trained sexual assault counselors and use a trauma-informed approach to supporting survivors. We work to create a safe, empowered, and healing environment for all community members who reach out to us.  

Step 1: Initial Contact and Advocate Connection

The journey often begins when a survivor dials our Community Helpline (800) 736-1060, which provides 24-hour/7-days-a-week intervention, support, information, and referral services relating to domestic intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.  As soon as an advocate answers the phone, they ask how they can help. While listening to the caller, the advocate is working to assess the immediate safety of the caller.  It is imperative that the survivor is in a safe setting before moving forward.  

Our advocates then dive deeper into the situation and converse with the survivor, including providing information about Sexual Assault Forensic Exams, a thorough medical evaluation and forensic evidence collection procedure administered to individuals following sexual abuse or assault. These exams must be conducted within a specific timeframe, making it one of the first things our advocate discusses with the survivor. If the survivor decides to proceed with the exam, the Sierra Community House advocate offers coordination, transportation and accompaniment support.  Our region’s nearest access to a SART exam is at the Child Advocacy Center of Reno, which can be challenging to reach during winter storms.

Step 2: Accompaniment and Support with Medical Exam

If a survivor opts for a SART exam, an advocate accompanies them to the examination, and sits with them during the evidence collection if the survivor chooses to have the advocate present. The SART exam does not require the victim to proceed with any official police report or charges, but at this point in the process that may be on their mind. Advocates are there to share what steps they can take, if they choose to move forward with pressing charges. 

Whether or not a survivor decides to move forward with a forensic exam, Sierra Community House advocates inform survivors about available resources, including immediate needs like housing, clothing, and toiletries. Our advocates ensure that survivors feel supported and empowered to make informed decisions regarding every step in the process, including law enforcement involvement. 

Step 3: Support Beyond Examination

Sierra Community House offers an array of services tailored to survivors’ needs. After a survivor has taken the courageous step to reach out, we stand ready to provide comprehensive support, understanding that each individual’s journey towards healing, justice, and long-term safety is unique. 

Once an advocate has shared the immediate steps to take after a sexual assault, the survivor may be exploring a safe plan of action to take following the abuse. Sierra Community House uses this time to connect survivors with our other programs. empower victims in reclaiming their rights and to provide the tools individuals and families need on the road to safety and recovery. 

Services we offer:  

  • Support Services: Sierra Community House provides individual counseling, support groups, emergency assistance, and other support services for both adult and child survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. 
  • Residential Services: Our team ensures survivors have access to safe and stable housing, offering short-term solutions while working towards long-term stability. 
  • Legal Assistance Services: We provide guidance and assistance in navigating the legal system, including support with filing restraining orders and accompanying survivors through legal proceedings. 

In addition to these vital services, our commitment extends to addressing survivors’ long-term needs. Our team assists survivors in accessing long-term therapy, addressing mental health needs, and applying for Victims Compensation for expenses related to the assault. 

As we continue our mission to empower survivors, Sierra Community House remains steadfast in our commitment to providing compassionate, comprehensive care to those impacted by sexual violence. Sierra Community House partners with local organizations to provide tools and resources in the community, to create a safer, more supportive environment for all.