Ruth’s Cottage is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit agency that was incorporated in 2002. Non-Profit status was also achieved that year, making it an umbrella agency with the following mission: to end domestic and sexual violence, as well as child sexual and physical abuse, through a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to investigations, advocacy, and support, while working in the community to change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. The conception of the organization was that it be one to provide three distinct services: domestic violence prevention/shelter, child advocacy, and be a sexual assault center. As of January 2018, all three of these goals have been realized as described in the following paragraphs.
In September 2002, the Ruth’s Cottage Domestic Violence Prevention Program was awarded grant monies for three advocates to work on behalf of family violence. These funds came from the Department of Human Resources and Criminal Justice Coordinating Council which administers both VOCA and VAWA funds. A regional Board of Directors was formed from the four-county circuit to include Irwin, Tift, Turner and Worth Counties. The District Attorney, Mr. Paul Bowden, was elected President to govern the 25-member board. Ruth’s Cottage, from its inception, has been a collaborative of DFCS, prosecution, law enforcement, courts, schools and colleges, the faith community, prevention, mental health, CASA, the business community, local government and concerned citizens.
The organization recognizes that when we do not hold the batterers accountable, we serve no one. In that respect, the responsibility to educate the entire collaborative, including judges and law enforcement, is an ongoing mission of the organization. The September 2002 family violence homicide of one of the organization’s founders, Joy Hill, was a reminder to the group and the community of the terrible stigma that forces victims into silence. Only a coordinated community response effectively battles the pervasiveness of this problem that affects women, men and their children.
In 2005, the child advocacy center, The Patticake House, was established and services began there of forensic interviewing with family support services. Children served by The Patticake House are those who have been sexually, severely physically abused or witness to family violence. Forensic interviews are scheduled only by DFCS and/or law enforcement. The organization will begin providing forensic medical exams for children who have been sexually abused in 2022. The forensic medical exam 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. 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 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.
The organization works to create an effective community response to the issue of family violence with a two-pronged approach: advocacy and education. Advocacy efforts seek to ensure that survivors, their dependents, and those at risk of family violence and/or sexual assault are protected and treated respectfully. Through community education, the organization attempts to create an effective response system to family violence and to change cultural and societal attitudes and institutional practices that perpetuate violence. Ruth’s Cottage and The Patticake House will not discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, disability, socio economic status, religious or cultural affiliation, sexual orientation, or HIV status. Committed volunteers are at the core of RCPCH, and we obtain funding from a consortium of state, federal, regional, private, foundation and corporate sources.