Local battered women’s shelter opens

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2005


Staff Reporter

NEW ORLEANS — An outreach effort to provide help to women who have been victims of sexual assault is branching out in the River Parishes, recently adding an outreach office in St. Charles Parish.

S.A.R.A’s Center, or Sexual Assault Response Assistance Center, is a branch of the Metropolitan Battered Women’s Program, an organization to assist victims of domestic violence, which serves the Greater New Orleans area, including the River Parishes.

The program has collaborated with Associated Catholic Charities to provide space and time to meet with women from St. Charles who have survived a sexual assault. The agency also has a location within St. John Parish that has served women from all three parishes since January.

Miriam Paiz, River Parishes Advocate for MBWP, said the goal of the services is to give them somewhere to go that is close and convenient to them.

According to MBWP, sexual assault survivors used to have to travel to Houma or New Orleans for these services. Now help through individual and group counseling, as well as information/referral, is easier to get to.

All of these services are free and confidential.

“Sexual assault” and “rape” are interchangeable terms to describe crimes involving unwanted and illegal sex acts, and, according to MBWP, the legal definition may vary from state to state. Sexual assault involves the use and threat of force, but may not involve actual penetration.

S.A.R.A’s Center was created to provide an outlet for victims to seek spiritual and emotional healing after an assault. According to the program, common effects women suffer after a crime may be shock or denial, changes in sleeping or eating, nightmares and flashback, or even headaches and vomiting.

Paiz said some women do not come in for months, sometimes years, after the assault.

“Then they will finally come in because they feel like they need it,” said Paiz, “They feel like they are not functioning.”

However, Paiz stressed how important intervention is in the beginning stages of crisis.

“They need grief counseling in the beginning,” Paiz said, “So they know what to do legally and medically to get them some help.”

To receive help through S.A.R.A’s Center, call (504) 837-5400, or 1-888-411-1333, if in River Parishes.