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Local resources available for victims of sexual assault

Posted at 5:31 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 20:53:13-04

We're taking a closer look at the resources available for those who've been sexually assaulted. This comes on the heels of a USA Today report that exposed a lapse in communication and possible violation of Louisiana State Law, Act 172, among universities and law enforcement in Louisiana, including in Lafayette.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, college women face higher rates of sexual assault, but only 20% of victims report their assault to police.

Hearts of Hope is here to help those in Acadiana.

"When you're reporting law enforcement it can be a scary thing. That's why we're here to walk them through that part," Jencie Olivier, Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate for Hearts of Hope, said.

Olivier said those who want to report a sexual assault can go directly to police or a hospital.

"Or they can come to us at Hearts of Hope," Olivier said. "We can coordinate where they can come to Hearts of Hope and we can have both of those agencies come here at the same time, that way they only have to tell their story once."

Olivier says there is no limit to when an assault must be reported to police; however, physical evidence must be collected immediately.

"If it happened within 96 hours, you can go to a local hospital and have a Personal Evidence Recovery Kit done, which is called a PERK," Olivier explained.

As an advocate, Olivier says the victim must decide what they want to do.

"We want them to feel comfortable, we want them to do what is best for them. My goal is always tell survivors they are leading the bus. We are here to support them. We believe you, we see you, we hear you. We will do whatever is best for you to recover from this," Olivier said.

According to the Survivor Advocate, it is common to have questions on what happened or what to do next. She says you can call the Hearts of Hope 24/7 crisis hotline at 337-233-7273.

The USA Today report showed potential violations of Act 172, which is designed to prevent students accused of sexual assault from transferring from university to university. The legislation requires universities and local law enforcement to tell each other about reports of sex crime allegations involving students. Act 172 orders colleges to prevent students from transferring schools during investigations into those crimes, and also says any resulting disciplinary action must also be disclosed to the university or college to which the student is transferring.

According to the report, the student who was reportedly assaulted at another university could have filed a Title IX complaint against the suspect. Title IX is a federal mandate meant to protect students from sex discrimination; it's a federal law that says no one shall be excluded or denied benefits on the basis of sex under any education program.

Title IX applies to all educational institutions - both public and private - that receive federal funds. It also benefits everyone - girls and boys, men and women.

Schools are legally required to respond to and correct hostile environments, and by failing to do so, schools could risk losing federal funding.

READ MORE: USA Today investigation spotlights failures in college response to complaints

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