New building allows SARC to expand counseling, sex trafficking services

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New $1.2 million facility doubles space for Support, Advocacy & Resource Center

Moving into a building twice the size of its previous facility has served as a catalyst for the Support, Advocacy & Resource Center to expand its on-site counseling services and increase its services for sex trafficking victims.

The move to the $1.2 million building on Richland’s Fowler Street, completed in mid-June, offers the advantage of space for the 24-hour crisis intervention, support and advocacy for victims of crime – sexual violence, human trafficking, physical assault, homicide, gang violence, identity theft, elder abuse and harassment and preventive education and awareness. SARC provided 1,124 services to 450 new clients in 2016 and received 597 calls for information and crisis information.

“I think as far as service delivery, the new building has really helped us enhance and expand our outreach,” said JoDee Garretson, SARC executive director. “We’re providing more comprehensive services to human trafficking victims now. Having dedicated staff is essential, as there’s more involved in trafficking cases.”

Trafficking victims face complex issues that may include the need for a restoration home/treatment facility, which isn’t available in the Tri-City area, Garretson said. This necessitates more contacts and time spent making arrangements for them. Trafficking victims often face drug/alcohol issues, live on the streets, have financial struggles and therefore need transportation and clothing.

“Many are also in the criminal justice system, related to their victimization, so we have more work to do in that area,” Garretson said.

SARC received a state grant to expand its sexual trafficking program, which enabled the not-for-profit organization to add a human trafficking advocate, program assistant and clinical director for the counseling center. The grant amount from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, is $142,725.

“It’s not necessarily that the rate of trafficking has increased; we’re all just better trained to identify victims and better know when it’s taking place,” Garretson said. Whether the rate of sex trafficking has increased has been nearly impossible to track in the past. SARC annually reports victim statistics to the state, said Garre­­­tson, though “sexual trafficking” hasn’t previously been a category.

“It was included under ‘sexual assault,’ but now has its own category,” Garretson said. “It’ll take some time to see whether there’s growth in that area.”

In addition to the expanded trafficking program, the larger building allowed for an on-site counseling program.

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Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno has been in the “news” business for more than 20 years. She is passionate about writing, and is also an educator with the goal of igniting young minds so they might discover their potentials. She lives in the Yakima Valley with her children, two mini schnauzers, two lizards and multitudes of fish. She enjoys camping, kayaking and breathing in the ocean air. She hopes to one day be a published novelist and see her work being read by the masses … or even by just one who is moved by her story.

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