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DOVES offers support to those who experience sexual assault

January 28, 2017 GMT

For many people, every day is usually normal. Sometimes, something happens in the course of their day that may trigger a memory of an unpleasant time in their life. For survivors of sexual assault, this can come from something most would find ordinary — reading the newspaper or watching television. When that happens, the memory of the assault comes to the forefront of their minds. They can become angry or depressed or experience any other emotion as it relates to the assault. This response is normal and there are places to seek help in the Panhandle.

In the past few months, DOVES has seen an increase in the number of calls received. Survivors have reached out to their 24-hour crisis line for help.

“When we have stories that come out in the news, it can definitely trigger survivors,” client advocate/sexual assault specialist at DOVES Tabitha McCloud said.

New clients have also come from the billboards around town from DOVES.

Sexual assault is not about sex. It’s about control, she said. It doesn’t matter who you are, how pretty you are or what your socioeconomic background is.

“Anyone from 13 to 100 can be sexually assaulted,” she said.

McCloud said sometimes a person has never told anyone about what happened, which is common, particularly in small towns. She has had clients that were afraid to come into the DOVES office because they knew someone who worked there or thought someone would see them enter the building. McCloud said DOVES services are confidential and information is not shared between staff.

“Confidentiality is something we follow to a “T” because we know how important it is,” she said. “Because everybody knows everybody here. They can even call anonymously.”

Not everyone who enters the DOVES building is a client. They arrive for many reasons not related to any services offered.

“It’s hard to just walk in,” she said. “I understand that.”

McCloud said she has had clients who kept their experiences secret, sometimes for 40 years, but events in the news bring it up again.

“They are really good at keeping it compartmentalized or sweep it under the rug,” she said. “But, at some point, it is coming out.”

When the memory of the assault does arise, DOVES is one place a person can visit.

Sexual assault can affect parenting, the way a marriage is going, a person’s health and a number of other things in life. Sometimes, a parent may not want to discuss sexual assault and how to recognize it with their children because their children are around the age they were when they were assaulted.

“They don’t want to bring up those feelings so they don’t talk about it or even healthy relationships,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not easy to talk about what’s healthy and what’s not healthy.”

DOVES can also offer assistance in discussing what a healthy relationship looks like.

“We can talk to kids about dating violence, what it is, what a healthy relationship is,” she said. “Sometimes, not talking to your parents about this is easier.”

McCloud said she knows how hard it is for people to come and discuss their sexual assault and/or domestic violence face to face and is in the preliminary stages of organizing something online to help others. She wants to see people get the help they need and is thinking outside the box for ways to do that.

“There’s a whole bunch of people out there needing services that aren’t getting them because they don’t feel comfortable,” she said. “If I was in their situation and from what I’ve seen on social media, I don’t know if I would have the courage to report it.”

McCloud said comments online lead a person to believe they did something wrong.

“When they already have a feeling of fault or low-self esteem that goes with it (sexual assault), it can make the situation worse,” she said. “With sexual assault and what we see in media, a lot of those stories are victim blaming.”

DOVES doesn’t just offer services for women. They help anyone who has experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, directly or indirectly. It can take a physical and emotional toll on family and friends.

When a person has been sexually assaulted, they struggle to determine if they are alone.

“They are not alone,” she said. “We are here to help. We are here to support you.”

If you need help or someone to talk to, consider calling DOVES 24-hour crisis line at 308-436-HELP (4357), 866-95-DOVES (36837) or 877-215-0167 (español).