Contact advocates for victims of sexual assault
by By Agnes Hapka
POINT PLEASANT — Paula Gregory represents an important, but perhaps little known, local resource for those who have been raped or are being stalked: the Contact Rape Crisis Center. Gregory is the Mason County victim advocate.
A victim’s advocate provides a free service to anyone who has been sexually assaulted; the service is completely confidential, and the advocate gives non-judgmental support. The idea is for the victim to feel secure and believed. An advocate’s job begins when the victim reports the assault and the advocate’s involvement can continue after other agencies are no longer involved.
Gregory said that as an advocate she also offers services of a practical nature, such as helping victims with the crime victim’s reimbursement.
“If there’s any kind of hospital expense, they can apply for reimbursement,” Gregory said, adding that the initial examination is automatically paid for by the state.
Gregory also acts as an advocate for stalking victims, and can accompany people to the magistrate in order to assist them in getting a personal safety order. A new law has taken effect this year giving people the right to protect their personal safety from those who are subjecting them to sexual harassment or stalking.
Gregory’s office is in Point Pleasant, although Contact is based in Huntington, and she said she generally stays on call.
“It’s a 24/7 service, and if I’m out of town there’s always someone available,” Gregory said.
Gregory said that a victim of sexual assault should notify police immediately after an assault, without washing or changing clothes, go to a hospital, get support from a friend or relative, and then call her at Contact. During working hours, Gregory said, she is in her office; after hours an answering service will connect her with the victim.
Gregory and Contact’s local component holds monthly meetings of SART — the Sexual Assault Response Team.
“SART involves social workers, nurses, anyone who is in the pipeline to help a rape victims,” Gregory noted.
Contact also aligns its mission with that of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, whose theme this year is “No More,” to go along with its aim of of ending domestic violence and sexual assault.
Gregory herself is a fourth-generation Mason County resident, although she has lived in Florida and Michigan and has traveled extensively or work within the US. She has worked in the health care system, including social work and behavioral health care. She has also worked as a case manager in a homeless shelter.
“I came home,” Gregory said.
During office hours, victims of sexual assault or stalking may contact Paula Gregory at (304)675-6724. At any other time, the number for the hotline is (866)399-7273; this number will connect callers with Gregory or another volunteer round the clock, seven days a week.
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