PALM DESERT, Calif. - A local center in Palm Desert is helping sexual assault victims speak up and heal.
The Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services Rape Crisis Center is apart of the sexual assault response team, otherwise known as SART.
They work with law enforcement and Eisenhower Medical Center ensuring victims receive the services they need.
The center provides free counseling for victims and their significant others as well as family members.
"Sexual assault has always been a hush topic but the more that we prevent the more that we are out there the more our voice is heard, its opening up doors," said Wynette Daughtry, program director for the Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services.
The center is able to operate with funds from grants and the help of volunteers who are trained to respond to the hospital with law enforcement if a case comes up.
"We currently have 31 volunteers and we are always looking for more, cause volunteers are the arm that keeps us up," said Daughtry.
Heather Greene was sexually molested by her stepfather when she was 4 years old. She says she never told anyone what happened until 20 years later.
"Honestly I didn't even know who I was, I just remember I couldn't talk about it and I didn't want to talk about it, I felt like little Heather, like the little 4 year-old," said Greene.
Greene says she received free counseling at the center, which she couldn't find anywhere else.
"I was very ashamed; I felt like not worthy of anything," said Greene.
Greene says her stepfather molested her for more than a year. When he was finally arrested, he was sentenced to six months in jail. Heather says it was a slap on the wrist because he was a police officer.
"He basically lied to the judge and said I simply masturbated in front of him and that's not the case because still to this day I live with evidence that's not all that happened and it requires me to be on medication," said Greene.
That medication, Heather says is for the STD her stepfather left her with. Heather says she forgives her perpetrator but she will never forget. Heather says she's thankful for the center and the people that work there for helping her to become empowered.
"I'm running my own support group and I'm seeing a lot of people that are out there hurting and they tell me they look up to me," said Greene.
If you know someone who is need of help, or you are a person in need of help, you can call the national 24 hour hotline number: 1-(800) 656-4673.
For more information on donating to the center or volunteering visit www.sbsas.org
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