The COVID-19 crisis has emboldened perpetrators of sexual violence. Sex offenders are using the pandemic to gain or renew access to victims, intimidate survivors into silence, and interfere with survivors’ attempts to seek safety and justice. Sexual assault survivors report their trauma is amplified by quarantines, economic pressures, and fears for the future. For child victims the COVID-19 crisis has left them trapped with their perpetrators and exposed to online predators.
Hearts of Hope’s Children’s Advocacy Center has seen an 83% increase in child victims where sexual abuse or severe physical abuse is being investigated during January through September of 2021 as compared to this time in 2020. While demand is at an all-time high, donations, fundraising, and grant funding have substantially decreased.
It is imperative that children and adults experiencing adversity in our region receive trauma-informed care to mitigate any negative outcomes; however, locating specialized service providers willing to work in the area of trauma is daunting. Exacerbating this problem is locating providers offering trauma-specific interventions for low-income families and poverty populations.
Hearts of Hope aims to provide these necessary services to children and adults in Lafayette Parish free of charge but needs funding.
Hearts of Hope provides free services to victims of sexual violence through three programs: the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC); the Sexual Abuse Response Center (SARC) and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) program. They offer distinct services that are collaborative in the effort to assist survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Hearts of Hope collaborates with the Lafayette Parish Department of Child and Family Services, Lafayette Police Department, Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Broussard Police Department, Scott Police Department, Youngsville Police Department, Carencro Police Department, the 15th JDC District Attorney’s Office, and other involved parties, for case tracking and coordination of services to survivors of sex crimes. Hearts of Hope conducts monthly meetings with the Lafayette Parish Sexual Assault Response Team (LPSART) and the Children’s Advocacy Center Multi-Disciplinary Team (CAC-MDT), thus ensuring a victim-centered response to those reporting crimes of sexual violence. There is no other agency in Lafayette Parish that provides these direct services to victims of sex crimes.
Hearts of Hope is requesting $750,000 in funding over the next 3 years to assist with the direct services and operational expense of the agency. This will allow for no interruption in services or termination of staff due to the agency’s significant decrease in funding.
The Price Tag