CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – After Dorlisha White was raped last summer, she felt alone.
But because of her brave actions, many future Clarksville rape victims have somewhere to turn for help.
White was raped at Fort Campbell last year and her attacker, Tyran Alexander, was sentenced to 10 years in Fort Leavenworth for sexual assault and rape after he was convicted April 1.
But not only did White fight for justice in her case, she fought for change, for help in a city where there was no rape crisis center to help women like her. Her story touched so many hearts that by Sept. 1, the Sexual Assault Center, which provides counseling and advocacy for victims and their families, will reopen its doors in Clarksville.
The center, based in Nashville, had an office in Clarksville from 1991 to 2010, but had to shut down after state funding dried up.
“It was terribly hard because we knew there were no other services that can do what we did,” said Sexual Assault Center President Tim Tohill. “We are that specialist when it comes to sexual assaults.”
When the Clarksville center reopens, it will not rely only on state dollars, but on community support as well — something it did not do when it was first established in 1991.
On Thursday, the Clarksville-Montgomery County Community Health Foundation presented an $81,339 check to reopen the Sexual Assault Center in Clarksville. The state anted up $50,000 and together that will be enough to run the center for one year. This time around, the center will be less at the mercy of government funding as it works to establish partnerships with local agencies. It has also partnered with the United Way, which will likely supply some funding next year and it hopes to continue to get grants from the Community Health Foundation and others.
It is also actively seeking relationships with people, institutions and organizations that can help, including Fort Campbell, APSU, Gateway Medical Center, the Montgomery County Child Advocacy Center and city, county and state leaders.
For White, knowing that her story touched lawmakers and others enough to do something about the shortage of help for victims means a lot.
“I understood anything I worked on moving forward to make a change wasn’t going to benefit me, but with the mere fact that there was a location locally that could benefit or even direct ‘victims’ with healing process would actually be my closure,” she said Thursday. “A little after a year after the incident I have gathered an amazing support system, to include my mother and Richard Garrett — who actually helped me get heard to begin with.”
And then more supporters came on board. Rep. Joe Pitts and his wife, Cynthia — the foundation’s Advisory Council chairwoman — were contacted by a colonel at Fort Campbell, met with White and then met with Tohill to see how Clarksville could get its former chapter back.
They hosted a meeting with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Clarksville Police Department, Fort Campbell leaders, Gateway representatives, APSU and the Child Advocacy Center, Cynthia Pitts said.
All are organizations that help survivors of sexual assaults in some ways and there was a need to work together, she said.
A key element is the military’s involvement, which is much more supportive than in years past, Tohill said.
At first, there will be two employees. One will be a therapist who will provide counseling to survivors. The other will help run the office and speak publically to bring attention to the cause.
An advocate from Nashville will be available to help victims as they go through the court system, if needed.
At first, there will be no charge for counseling, Tohill said. In Nashville, there is a sliding scale based on ability to pay and insurance payments are taken. No one is turned away for an inability to pay.
Paying for her therapy was just one more stress that White had to endure in the months after her rape.
“I still have issues with sleeping and I replay the incident in (my) head daily,” White said. “It’s routine, but when I look back on this very interesting and bumpy journey I wouldn’t take anything I’ve said or done back. I originally was extremely angry with the military (and) felt they were against me completely, but I now understand that (there’s) a lot of things that the officials of the military don’t have control over and, unfortunately, one of them being resources and services for non-Department Of Defense ID holders.”
She said she is grateful for the help of the Pitts family and Tohill, and plans to volunteer as much of her time to the center as possible.
“I have yet to determine if the rape or the aftermath is worse, but I knew change was going to come and the day my sexual assault advocate, Mrs. Rizer, texted me and let me know what all my letters and articles and dedication had done, I literally pulled over and cried for a few moments. At this moment I understood the true meaning ‘everything happens for a reason’ and I’m beyond blessed to have the people I do standing behind me.”
While the goal is to have the Clarksville office open Sept. 1, anyone needing help now can the crisis line at 1-800-879-1999 or for counseling or advocacy, call the Nashville office at 615-259-9055.
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Source Link: The Leaf Chronicle