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I have a question...

Here you will find our most asked questions. If you still have questions, feel free to call us through our 24/7 Help & Support line (601) 264-7777

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

Any information you think is necessary. For example, case numbers, reports from police, a 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 regardless of whether the abuse/assault has been reported or not. We can also go with you to law enforcement if you choose to report the assault/abuse at any point.

What if the abuse, assault, or friend/family member was murdered 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 to cope with the tragedy.

What are the laws regarding sexual assault?

Mississippi Laws (MISS CODE ANN. §§ 97-3-65 et seq.) regarding sexual assault are as follows:


Statutory rape: Having sex with a child who is at least 14 but under 16 years of age, or a with a child who is not a spouse and is 3 years younger, and the perpetrator is 17 years of age or olderHaving sex with a child under 14 years of age, or with a child who is not a spouse and who is 2 years younger


Rape: Forcing another to have sex or having sex with a person who has been given a substance or liquid (such as alcohol or drugs) which prevents them from providing proper consent


Sexual assault (a.k.a. "assault with intent to ravish"): assaulting a woman with the intent of raping her


Sexual Battery

Sexual penetration of any of the following

  • Another person without consent

  • A mentally defective/incapacitated or physically helpless person

  • A child who is at least 14, but under 16 years of age

  • A child who is 3 years younger than the perpetrator

  • A child who is under 14 years of age (unless the perpetrator is within 2 years of the victim's age)

  • A child under 18 years of age and the perpetrator is an authority figure (such as a teacher, counselor, physician, legal guardian, parent, coach, etc.)

Sex with inmates, parolees, etc.: sexual penetration by an authority figure (such as a guard, sheriff, or correctional facility employee) of an inmate, parolee, or person who is on probation or otherwise under supervision


Fondling a child or a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless person: Fondling a child under 16 years of age or a mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless person, for the purpose of gratifying the perpetrator's lust or sexual desires and the perpetrator is 18 years of age or olderAn authority figure (such as a teacher or parent) fondling a child under 18 years of age, younger than the perpetrator, and not the perpetrator's spouse

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

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

Can I be raped/assaulted if I am married? How do you know if you have been raped?

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. 

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? 

  • Were 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. We are happy to speak with you and answer any questions you have.


If you don’t feel comfortable calling someone local for information, please go to this website to talk to someone: 

Does The Shafer Center hold Sexual Assault Support groups as well? When are groups held?

Survivors of homicide and Sexual Assault groups 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, assault, and/or homicide of your loved one that occurred. It’s important that we know of any counseling/mental health issues and overall physical health issues/medications you may be taking.

What is rape culture? 

According to Marshall University Women’s Center, Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and 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 are 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 the victim was 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 is made enthusiastically, with no coercion, threats, intimidation, or fear, made with hesitation or 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 rape to authorities. You have two options: report the rape but not press charges at the moment (or ever), or 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 to 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 and more than likely to occur during the first semester (Fall semesters) of school.

What is a forensic exam (aka rape kit)?  What happens during a forensic exam?i 

A sexual assault forensic exam can only be performed by trained 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; a victim advocate can help answer your questions. As a victim, you have the right to decline any part of the exam. Your clothing will be collected and placed in a paper bag during the exam. Cotton swabs will take various samples from different parts of your body. Blood work will be taken and prophylactics, if wanted, will be given. You will be asked your recollection of the assault and depending on the hospital and the equipment they have, they will take pictures for forensic purposes. You will also be screened for various STI’s. The important part to remember during this exam is that you can say no to any part of the exam. This exam can sometimes take about 4 hours.

What is the Help & Support line?

Like many others across the nation, the Help & Support line (may be referred to as crisis line) 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, and we are here to help! The phone number is 601-264-7777

What are some other co-occurring problems that can develop because 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 action.

Tips on how to help a survivor of sexual assault:

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. •Call - The Shafer Center (local) •RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673) - Text 741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor •Online Hotline (Webchat)- •Every state has a crisis center(s). •In Mississippi, the main crisis center is 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.

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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