Rotarians learn of The Oak House services, offerings for victims

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Amy Eakin of the Oak House was the guest during Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting, where she spoke on the resources the Oak House provides for survivors of sexual assault and physical abuse.

In 2011, the child advocacy center moved to Decatur County after being housed in Grady County district attorney’s office for 11 years. Since the move, Eakin said they have helped more than 1,500 primary and secondary victims, offering a safe haven for children and adult victims. They have provided the victims with forensic interviews and additional services, such as sexual assault examinations and coordination of case reviews.

The Oak House’s mission for their child advocacy center is to provide a timely, comprehensive, multidisciplinary team response to victims of child abuse in a child friendly setting.

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They then work with law enforcement officials, child social services, the District Attorney’s office, the school system and the mental and medical health communities to advocate for the children’s right to be heard and they follow them in their journey from a victim to a survivor. The team begins with the initial outcry and follows through until the person responsible has been prosecuted.

When a child expresses they have been sexually assaulted or abused, a professional forensic interviewer comes and invites the other members of the multidisciplinary team, so the child does not have to repeat their story multiple times and relive the trauma. It also helps all involved when they begin tracking the case throughout the Southwest Georgia judicial circuit.

The forensic interviewer can help any children throughout the five counties of Decatur, Mitchell, Baker, Early and Grady. The interviewer is also usually allowed to testify on behalf of the child to prevent further trauma caused by fear of the attacker.

Once done with an interview, children and adults are offered a sexual assault exam conducted by trained nurses. The nurses have provided 120 examinations annually. They help collect evidence, such as clothing and document bruises or other abrasions for law enforcement and do expert testimony for victims in court.

The sexual assault program can also provide follow up examinations to do comparisons of healing.

Housing the examinations inside of the Oak House has allowed many victims to get help at one place instead of facing the inconvenience of traveling around to multiple locations in order to get the help needed.

The Oak House is one of the very few places that offer this. While it can seem frightening, Eakin said awareness is rising for sexual assault and abuse, and the Oak House wants people to know they are there for them in their time of need and will help them see this through until the end.