HAMPTON, VA. (WAVY) – The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors provides a safe space for free counseling and victim advocacy.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Center is working to provide prevention and intervention resources.

“We really stress the importance of ‘we believe you’, ‘we’re proud of you for reaching out to us’, ‘thank you for trusting us with your story,” said Jessi Brown, Center for Sexual Assault Survivors victim services program manager.

On April 15, The Center will host the 2023 Walk In Their Shoes with 10 On Your Side’s Kiahnna Patterson.

EVENT: Walk In Their Shoes 2023 (WITS)
DATE: Saturday, April 15
TIME: 9 – 11 a.m.
LOCATION: Peninsula Town Center Hampton, VA 23666
Register/donate: CLICK HERE

“The walk is a walk of solidarity with survivors in our communities,” Brown said. “It gives our survivors, our clients and our community a voice that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Brown adds the walk highlights the work the staff of six does all year.

“A lot of people don’t know that we exist, so we try to get the word out there,” she said.

The Center provides free counseling, one on one or in groups, among other services. All are welcome – children, men, women and members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. The Center staff will also provide hospital accompaniment.

Elizabeth Young, forensic nurse examiner program coordinator at Riverside Regional Medical Center and a former Center board member, said the trauma team depends on the Center for Sexual Assault Survivors.

“[The Center is] our crutch, we can’t survive without having a place to give a warm hand off for counseling services,” Young said. “We see on average about 95 patients a month, that was March.”

“But this can’t happen without grants and fundraisers. This is not sustainable without the community involvement, without donations. The Center is here for everybody.”

Young admits it takes strength to come to the hospital to be examined, which can take up to three hours. If the patient agrees, forensic evidence is collected and the patients are tested for sexually transmitted infections. Then given the option for medical treatments such as emergency contraceptive and STI prophylaxis.

“The offense, the crime, is egregious,” Young said, “and it’s a ripple effect of that these victims go through afterwards. It is not just the sexual assault and the trauma that surrounds that.”

Last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin approved SB 1436 to support victims of sexual assault by reinstating the requirement that individuals charged with certain crimes are required submit to STI testing.

Young believes the bill will streamline the process of getting a suspect tested for STIs like HIV.
“It is saving a patient victim from having to take anti-viral medications,” she said. “If we can get a baseline and know that the suspect is negative has saves us a lot of time. If you have to take these medications, your life is interrupted or you have to take off of work because of the side effects.”

The bill states it will go into effect July 1.