Since 1992, the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia (SAC) has been committed to providing free, confidential, and compassionate services for survivors of sexual assault.
Given the heartrending statistic that one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, the SAC recognizes the importance of prevention education for adolescents, as they begin to navigate very mature situations and experiences.
In November, the SAC’s prevention education team paid a visit to the eighth-grade students at Rome Middle School (RMS).
Executive Director Kimberly King explained that the SAC facilitates programs to all ninth-grade students in Rome City and Floyd County Schools as well as Darlington School. She said that this is their first year of providing this program to all eighth graders as well.
“Our prevention work is vital in raising awareness about safety, identifying what abuse is, the basic principles of a healthy relationship, and empowering all students to recognize their own self-worth as well as the worth of others,” King explained. “We are committed to preventing and ending violence and abuse in our community.”
Far from a lecture, King and her prevention team engage the students in creative, informative, and heavily interactive discussions that address real-life emotions and experiences — meeting the students right where they are.
“The students are at such an interesting and exciting time in their lives; full of change and development,” King said. “They are building new relationships, starting to figure out who they are, what they believe in, etc. With any period of change and development comes the opportunity to be influenced by both positive and negative experiences or people. We aim to provide a comfortable, safe space and environment to talk about what is healthy as well as what is unhealthy or unsafe. We express the importance of setting expectations and boundaries while we also discuss safe decision-making.”
“It’s important that all students receive this training,” RMS eighth-grade Assistant Principal Kristin Hall expressed. “In this age of social media and what they see on TV, relationships are very dramatized to make it seem like it’s natural that these things happen; natural that we argue, natural that you feel pressured, that everybody is doing it, etc.”
Hall said that Rome City Schools and RMS saw the value in the SAC’s accredited program in that it offers the students empowerment over their decision-making.
“These are sensitive topics,” she added. “Some of these students have been through some of these things and it’s not until this moment during the discussion that they realize their level of empowerment.”
King explained that the SAC is funded by the Department of Public Health to provide 25 programs each year.
“We provide well over double the amount of programs required or reimbursable,” she affirmed. “It is only through our community’s help and support that we are able to provide additional programming. In 2021 alone, we have taught 2,296 students. We are honored to have the privilege of teaching these bright, young minds.”
King said that the reception that she and her team witness from the students truly makes the work more than worthwhile.
“You can tell when something you say resonates with the student body, and this happens often,” she explained. “We receive disclosures quite often and are able to help connect students to the resources they need. We would like to think that for many, our programming came at the right time in their lives.”
The SAC is also involved with prevention, outreach, and advocacy on college campuses in Rome, specifically at Berry College and Shorter University.
“Our prevention and advocacy team works with Berry’s BRAVE program to promote available resources for survivors, both on-campus and off,” King explained. “We have also led programming at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia, Global Girls, Inc., A Teen’s Choice, Inc., and other organizations in the community.
“I am incredibly proud to work alongside a group of amazing, strong, compassionate women,” King added. “From our advocates to our counselors, from nurses to educators — I remain in awe of the great impact we continue to make in our community and especially in the lives of those who have been impacted by sexual violence.”
- The SAC offers multiple programs and services including victim advocacy, forensic medical examinations, prevention education, counseling, outreach and awareness. Advocacy and forensic medical services are offered 24/7/365.
- The 24/hour hotline is 706.802.0580
- To find out how you can get involved with the SAC, visit sacnwga.org.
- Access the SAC’s donation platform at www.givebutter.com/supportsurvivors.