Ruth's Cottage Domestic Violence Prevention Program
Ruth’s Cottage is a domestic violence prevention program which includes the provision of a 24 bed emergency shelter for women and children. Residents are allowed to stay an initial four to six weeks and shelter staff work with them to make goals and plans for a safe life, post shelter. While at the shelter, all basic needs of the women and children are met while their emotional and education needs are also addressed through referrals to area agencies and support groups.
Men who contact the shelter in an emergency DV crisis are also given shelter utilizing hotels. Men who are victims receive the same services as women.
The program also provides a 24/7 crisis line manned by shelter advocates who assist by providing shelter arrangements, immediate safety planning, referrals, and/or linkage to the agency’s legal advocates.
Ruth’s Cottage employs two full-time and one part-time legal advocates who provide assistance with application for temporary protection orders, do lethality assessments and develop safety plans for those not entering shelter. Ruth’s Cottage staff educates and provides community awareness on topics related to family violence including teen dating violence, legal advocacy and DV 101.
Ruth's Cottage Sexual Assault Advocacy Program
Ruth’s Cottage also houses our Sexual Assault Advocacy Program that started in January of 2018. This program is comprised of a Program Manager and five Sexual Assault Advocates, one of which is bilingual. The program has a 24/7 Crisis Hotline that is staffed by the Program Manager and Sexual Assault Advocates. Once local law enforcement and/or the hospital call the hotline, the victim will have an advocate by their side within 30 minutes.
The advocate’s first contact with the victim will be at the hospital for the forensic exam. If the victim so chooses, the advocate will also accompany the victim to interviews with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office, as well as go to court if the case progresses that far. The advocates will also provide assistance with mental health services, filing for crime victim’s compensation, and provide support during follow-up medical exams. The advocate’s primary role is to solely be there to support the victim with their presence and provide resources and advocacy.
The Sexual Assault Program Manager will also provide community outreach and education about this program and sexual assault and consent. These presentations will be customized for different age groups.
In 2017, the Sexual Assault Kit Victim Notification Portal was created to assist survivors of sexual assault who believe their sexual assault kit may not have been previously tested. Survivors can visit notify.svrga.org to communicate their preferences regarding notification of reopened investigations and prosecutions.
The Patticake House
The Patticake House joined the Ruth's Cottage domestic violence program in 2005 to make the Tifton Judicial Circuit Shelter, Inc. a dual agency, with two state certified programs. The Patticake House is a Child Advocacy Centers of Georgia full affiliate child advocacy center which provides forensic interviews for children who have been suspected of having been severely physically abused, sexually abused and/or witness to severe family violence. The children served with a forensic interview are only referred for service by one or more of the following: law enforcement, Department of Family and Children’s Services and/or District Attorney’s Office. Children cannot be referred for an interview by a family member or a concerned citizen. Those who feel they know a child that has been abused or they strongly suspect abuse should call the state child abuse hotline and/or call 911.
The forensic interview serves to investigate and learn from the child what actions occurred and all possible details regarding the possible perpetrator. The recorded interview becomes evidence possibly used by the Distric Attorney's Office for prosecution of the offender. Only the District Atttorney and The Patticake House have access to the interview and it is held in strictest confidence. Only the Superior Court Judge can order for anyone else to view the recorded interview.
The non-offending caregiver brings the child to The Patticake House for the interview appointment and while the child is being interviewed, the non-offending caregiver is also interviewed and receives supportive services. These include assistance with crime victim's compensation application and follow-up, referral for mental health or social services and support with possible food and clothing needs.
The organization will begin providing forensic medical exams for children who have been sexually abused in the latter part of 2018. The Pediatric SANE program will be new to the judicial circuit and will prevent children of the circuit from having to wait for the exam and also prevent them from being transported 45 minutes or more away for an exam.
Post interview, the family support continues with follow up phone calls and assistance up to the time of the possible trial and court appearance. Each December, those who were served by The Patticake House are contacted for possible inclusion in the Suitcases for Kids Christmas Project as an additional service to the family.