Services for victims of sexual assault restored in the Shoals

FLORENCE, Ala. – For close to a year, there’s been a struggle to get victims of sexual assault in the Shoals the help they need. Due to grant management issues, a victim services group lost their state funding and had to shut-down. On Thursday, it was announced there is a new grant administrator and services have been restored.

One Place of the Shoals started as a single location for victim’s of domestic violence to get help. They are expanding their service capabilities to now include sexual assault victims.

District Attorney Chris Connolly announced with the city of Florence’s help, a nurse can now examine victims outside of a hospital setting.

Chris Connolly

“That is so important, especially in cases of sexual assault,” stated Connolly. “To have that service where it is not done in the cold confines of an emergency room.”

Shoals Crisis Services lost their grant for a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program last summer.

Connolly says city leaders in Florence agreed to become administrators of the ADECA grant.

Since the program shut down, victims of adult sexual assault had two options for nurses to gather evidence. Connolly said neither was ideal.

“If a victim was willing to go, we were having to send them over to Huntsville with our support, whether we drove them over there, provided a way for them to get over there. That was being provided either at the emergency room or at the Huntsville location.”

Statistics show on a nation-wide scale only 23 percent of sexual assault crimes are reported to law enforcement. Connolly hopes with the program back in place, victims won’t be afraid of coming forward.

The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program is being facilitated at One Place of the Shoals located in downtown Florence. It is the only family justice center in northwest Alabama.