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Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Shafer Center Doing About This?

Who are survivors of homicide and suicide (secondary victims)? How does the Shafer Center provide services to these individuals?

    Survivors of homicide and suicide can also be referred to as co-victims. They are typically family members and friends, but survivors are anyone that has been impacted by suicide or homicide. At the Shafer Center we offer individual therapy, group therapy, book clubs, advocacy and other events to support victims, survivors and co-victims alike.


When are groups held?

    Both the survivors of homicide group and survivors of suicide group are held once a month. Typically, before an individual joins either group, an assessment is completed by a trained staff member to ensure that group therapy would be beneficial to both the survivor and the group. You can call the Shafer Center to set up an appointment for an assessment.


What is an assessment? What will I be asked during the assessment?  

    The purpose of the assessment is to have a better understanding of what brought you to the Shafer Center, so we can provide individual therapy and have a better understanding of how we can best support you. The assessment can also help staff identify what resources you are eligible for/would best benefit your needs and it can help us determine the next step.

The assessment begins with your basic information: Name, phone number, emergency contact, etc. and moves into questions about the abuse and/or assault that occurred. It’s important that we know of any counseling/mental health issues and overall physical health issues/medications you may be taking.


Do I need to bring anything with me for an assessment?

    Any information you think is necessary. For example, case numbers, reports from police, list of current medications, etc.


I didn’t report my abuse/assault. Can I still get therapy/support from the Shafer Center?

    Yes! The Shafer Center understands that not all individuals report their abuse/assault. We are here to provide you with support despite if the abuse/assault has been reported or not. We can also go with you to law enforcement if you chose to report the assault/abuse at any point.

What if the abuse, assault, friend/family member was murdered (or died by suicide) more than 20 years ago, can I still receive services and counseling?

    Yes! We are here for you at any time during your healing process. At the Shafer Center we provide support when you need it the most and we have been able to provide that for clients of all ages that have been impacted by trauma.


How much is it for services at The Shafer Center?

    At the Shafer Center, ALL services are free. We are here to provide support when you need it the most. We offer a variety of services to help support victims of sexual assault, and co-victims of homicide and/or suicide to cope with the tragedy.


What is rape according to Mississippi law (MS Sexual Assault Laws-At-A-Glance, 2014)?

    Rape: Unwanted sexual intercourse includes males and females in which the penis or an object is inserted into the genitals, anus or perineum of a male or female.

    3 Categories of Rape (Start by Believing: Effective Representation of Victims of Sexual Assault, 2018):

  1. Statutory rape-Any person that is over the age of 17 and has intercourse with a child.

  2. Rape by force, either by threat or use of violence- When any type of weapon in present, or used, if physical force/violence is used or verbal threats/blackmail is used towards the victim.

  3. Rape by administration of substances- This includes alcohol, any type of drug that alters one’s consciousness and state of mind; this impacts the victim’s ability to consent, or say yes to intercourse.

Rape definitions, age of consent, and definitions vary from state to state. Please call the Shafer Center if you have any further questions.

Can you be raped if you are married?

    Yes. Rape is rape and one's marital status, sexuality, race, ethnicity, age or disability, DOES NOT determine if you are a victim of rape.


How do you know if you have been raped?

    You’re not alone in asking this question, it’s actually a very common question to ask.

Some common questions to ask include:

    Were you threatened, physically or verbally, to have sex? Were you pressured to have sex? Where you drinking? On drugs? Or given drugs? Or think you were given drugs without your knowledge? Did you change your mind and were ignored when you verbalized for your partner to stop? Were you unconscious? Did you wake up with unknown causes of bruising, bleeding, soreness, difficulty walking, or have wounds that look to be defensive wounds?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, no matter your gender, age, sexuality or race, reach out to someone you trust, call the crisis line, seek medical attention or speak to a police officer. You are not alone.

    Please call the Shafer Center and ask to speak with a Victim Advocate and we are happy to speak with you and answer any questions you have. Or you can also check this website out:


What is sexual battery according to Mississippi Law (Rape and Sexual Battery, 2014)?

    When there is no actual intercourse, but a person forces you to have oral sex, anal sex or any act where there is sexual penetration of a part of your body, the is sexual battery.


What is rape culture?

    According to Marshall University, Women’s Center, Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture (2017).

    Simply put, “rape culture” can be better understood by looking at this as cultural norms; it’s how our current culture talks and thinks about rape and gendered violence. This is seen in jokes that are made or when sexual assaults/rape is ignored, normalized  and/or minimized (made to seem insignificant). Placing blame on the victim of sexual assault is unfortunately a cultural norm response when others are aware of the assault.

What is victim blaming?

    A practice where the victim is partially or wholly blamed for their own crime. This can be seen when people question what the victim/survivor could have done differently to avoid the crime or what the victim did to “ask for it” . For example, when people ask what was the victim wearing, or the individual got too drunk, etc.

What is sexual consent?

    It is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. The agreement does is made enthusiastically, with no coercion, threats, intimidation, fear, made with hesitation, or made under the influence of alcohol or a substance.


Do I have to report the rape to authorities and press criminal charges?

    It is your right as a victim to report or not to rape to authorities. You have two options, to report the rape, but not press charges at the moment (or ever). Or to report a rape and press charges through the criminal justice system. Talk to a victim advocate to learn more about your reporting options.

What are my rights as a victim?

    As a victim, you are entitled certain rights in Mississippi.

Follow the link to see all of your rights and call The Shafer Center and speak to one of our multiple advocates to ask any questions you may have about your victim rights:


Are there populations more at risk of being raped?

Yes. They include these demographics:

  • LGBTQ+ community

  • People with disabilities

  • Female

  • Ethnic minorities

  • College students

    • Specifically, freshman

    • More likely to occur during the first semester (Fall semesters) of school


What is forensic exam (aka rape kit)?

    A sexual assault forensic exam that can only be performed by certified SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) nurses within 72 hours of the sexual assault. The exam is done to preserve any possible DNA and can help get you important medical care.

    Part of the Shafer Center’s victim advocacy services is that we can accompany you to the forensic exam. We can either be in the room with you, for support and to help answer any questions you may have, or we can wait outside the room when the forensic exam is being done.

For more information call the Shafer Center and a victim advocate can help answer your questions.

As a victim, you have the right to decline any part of the exam.


What happens during a forensic exam?

    During the exam, your clothing will be collected and placed into a paper bag. Various samples will be taken from different parts of your body with cotton swabs. An example of samples that will be taken during this exam are clippings, samples from under the nail, and hair from the victim's head, to name a few.


Do you have to have a rape kit to press for charges?

No. But it is helpful for your case if you are pressing charges.


Are there services offered in other languages?

Spanish services are offered upon request.


What is the Crisis hotline?

    The Crisis Hotline, like many others across the nation, is a 24-hour phone line that offers immediate emergency assistance (ex: community resources, their locations/numbers) and emergency counseling (ex: feeling very depressed, suicidal, having a flashback from a traumatic event). This is a free and confidential support line, we are here to help!


What are some other co-occurring problems that can develop as a result of sexual assault or being a secondary victim of trauma?

  • PTSD (including symptoms of avoidance, intrusive thoughts and hyperarousal)

  • Eating disorders (starvation, purging- throwing up, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, diuretic abuse- done after meals, overeating, etc.)

  • Depression/Anxiety

  • Self-injury

  • Substance abuse

  • Engaging in high-risk activities

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions


How to help a survivor of sexual assault-Some tips:

Believe the person!

  • Understand that their experience is traumatizing and they may not want to talk about it.

  • Don’t talk to others about the assault WITHOUT the survivor's permission.

  • Listen to them, don’t question them or ask for specific details.


Be informed!

  • Know your local/national resources to help (medical, therapy, reporting options, etc.).

  • 24-hour crisis response is available in various ways.

  • Every state has a crisis center(s). In Mississippi there are main crisis centers: The Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention (601-264-7078) and Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault ( 888-987-9011).


Let the survivor make their own choices

  • Be aware of what you want for the survivor and what the survivor wants.

  • Provide reassurance and validation: “I’m so sorry this happened to you.” “How can I be helpful?”


Take care of yourself too!

    For more information and other ideas to provide support for survivors and yourself, check out the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Guide:

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