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    Year End letter from The Cottage

    As 2020 winds down, we’ve been reflecting on the services and support survivors of sexual assault and child abuse in our community have received because of your help.

    So far this year, 182 children were interviewed about an allegation of abuse. These children told their stories to one of our specially trained forensic interviewers in a safe space designed to be comfortable for a child so that all agencies involved can have the information they need, without further traumatizing the young survivor.

    377 in-person and virtual therapy sessions were conducted with children who had experienced abuse, and 145 with adults who had been sexually assaulted or were seeking to heal from child sexual abuse. 44 adults were supported by Cottage Accompaniment Advocates as they went through the reporting and investigation processes.

    681 calls were answered through our 24/7 Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline. Often these calls are the beginning of a survivor’s healing process.  30 new hotline advocate volunteers were trained in 2020 to answer this hotline on nights and weekends.

    Seven different support groups were offered this year. Groups for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, teen survivors, caregivers of children who had been sexually abused, survivors of rape, male survivors and LGBTQ+ survivors gathered virtually to process their trauma and support each other through the healing process. Over 90 people overall participated in these groups this year.

    As we reported in our last newsletter, the Cottage assumed the operations of the statewide Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) hotline on September 15, 2020. The hotline links CSEC Advocates with children who have recently been recovered from a trafficking situation. The CSEC Advocate ensures that medical and safety needs are immediately met for these survivors. 62 calls were fielded by The Cottage staff and the seven CSEC Hotline Advocates we hired and trained to answer the hotline during nights and weekends so that 24/7 response is available.

    More than 15 sex trafficking survivors were provided resources by The Cottage to obtain counseling, stable housing and medical care so they can begin healing from the mental, emotional, financial and physical implications of the trauma experienced from being trafficked. The Cottage provided trainings to law enforcement officers and over 40 local professionals about the specific impact being trafficked has on individuals, and the best practices for responding to these survivors. Additionally, The Cottage is collaborating with other agencies through the newly formed North Georgia Sex Trafficking Awareness and Response (North Georgia STAR) Task Force to ensure those who have experienced sex trafficking in the North Georgia region have access to the “wraparound” services they need.

    To better address issues of racial justice in our organization and the broader community, The Cottage staff formed a Black Lives, Racism and Sexual Violence Task Force this year. This task force focuses on educating our staff about the intersection of sexual violence and systemic racism. Through structured dialogues, the task force focuses on cultural humility as a guiding principle in serving survivors and communicating with coworkers and partner agencies. Both cultural humility and specific educational activities help provide staff with the tools needed to better foster a culture of equity and inclusion, which will inform outreach and services to BIPOC survivors in the community.

    We are so thankful for all who have supported us by donating, sharing our mission, following us and/or educating yourself so that you can be an ally in the fight against sexual violence and child abuse in our community. You made a difference in the lives of your neighbors and community members.

    If you find yourself able to make an end of year donation so that we may continue this work, we would be so grateful. You can donate at the link below or via PayPal paypal.me/thecottagesaccac or Venmo thecottagesac_cac or by mailing a check to The Cottage 3019 Lexington Dr. Athens, GA 30605.

    ❤️ Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! ❤️

    The Cottage Staff and Board of Directors

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