Local rape victims now have a safe, secure place all their own to begin healing.
The Rape Crisis Center on Thursday will open its new therapeutic counseling center exclusively for victims of sexual assault -- the first of its kind locally.
"It's a big step for us and for Southern Nevada," said Lu Torres, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center. "It's a peaceful, quiet center specifically for rape victims" and their families.
The Nevada Women's Philanthropy Signs of Hope Counseling Center
is a warmly decorated suite of rooms for individual and group therapy at College of Southern Nevada's Charleston campus. The entrance is locked to protect sexual assault victims who might also be victims of stalking, Torres said.
Previously, the Rape Crisis Center referred victims to outside counselors for therapy, and the victims often were placed on waiting lists. They sometimes would have to visit counseling centers where perpetrators of sexual assault also were receiving therapy, Torres said.
"They don't have to worry about their perpetrators showing up here," she said.
Larry Ashley, a professor in UNLV's Department of Counselor Education, said he has dreamed of opening such a center since he came to Las Vegas 15 years ago. The department will offer some of its graduate students in clinical mental health to serve as counselors at the center.
"We do great treating people in crisis," including accompanying victims to the hospital, Ashley said. "But we really haven't had a formal follow-up program to treat those who have been raped."
After a sexual assault, many victims "have problems with daily living traced back to the incident," Ashley said. "Who do you pass that on to?"
The new center, which is the first of its kind in the state, is long overdue, Ashley said.
Nevada "is the last state in the nation" to open such a center, he said.
Funding has been the problem.
The Rape Crisis Center received $350,000 to open the center from Nevada Women's Philanthropy, a group that provides grants to local nonprofits in the fields of art, social services, education, environment and health care. The three-year grant allows enough time for the center to "get totally up to snuff" and hopefully become largely self-funding, Ashley said.
The center fills a void in the community, providing victims of sexual assault access to immediate and long-term care in a central location, Torres said. It's important for victims to start counseling as soon as possible before "symptoms start manifesting themselves," she said.
Otherwise victims might "act out in rage, become agoraphobic, develop an eating disorder or start self-medicating," she said.
The center hopes to provide services to about 700 victims its first year, Torres said. Counseling is provided in English and Spanish.
The Rape Crisis Center was founded in 1974 by Florence McClure and Sandra Petta, two Las Vegas women who were outraged at the lack of local resources for those affected by sexual assault. McClure, who died in 2009, first ran the center out of her home.
The group provides crisis intervention, advocacy, support and education for sexual assault victims and their families. An advocate is available to accompany victims to court.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285.