Sex assault victims can ‘Call for Help’

Pictured, from left, Call for Help medical and legal advocate Traci James, Call for Help counselor Angela Berry and Call for Help case manager Kaylee Englund work out of the new Call for Help Monroe County office at 219A W. Mill Street in Waterloo. (Sean McGowan photo)

Every 98 seconds, another person in the United States becomes the victim of a sexual assault, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network states.

Such an act can lead to post traumatic stress disorder and can even lead the victim to contemplate suicide. For many years, a southern Illinois agency known as Call for Help has worked to help guide sexual assault victims through trauma.

“We equip individuals to overcome crisis, trauma, and homelessness through stabilization, transitional and support programs to help them achieve  their maximum potential for daily living,” reads the Call for Help mission statement.

Call for Help has provided services for Monroe and Randolph counties but had no office in either community. Now, a new office at 219A W. Mill Street in Waterloo is available to these counties.

The office includes three full-time employees who can provide support to sexual assault victims. During a Monday afternoon meeting at the House of Neighborly Service office, these employees introduced themselves to HNS staff and community leaders.

HNS vice president Kelly Lerch, who attended the meeting, said she looks forward to what Call for Help will provide for the community.

“I think it will be a great additional resource for Monroe and Randolph counties because they not only provide support, they provide prevention and education,” she said. 

The purpose of the meeting was to give an overview of the services Call for Help provides and to allow civic organizations in the community to establish a connection with the office. Call for Help case manager Kaylee Englund said she is excited to be in the community.

“It’s amazing that everyone has been so welcoming to us,” she said.

Services available
Englund has one year of experience as a case manager out of Fairview Heights. In her position, Englund will help determine what services in the community to connect clients with and provide transportation services to clients who can’t get to counseling appointments.

Angela Berry will serve as the counselor for the Monroe County office. Berry, who recently received a masters degree in counseling from McKendree University, can counsel anyone age 3 and up and also provides group counseling.

Call for Help counseling services extend beyond victims to family members or anyone close to the victim who is impacted by the incident. Even in cases where the victim does not seek counseling, these friends or family can still do so.

Berry can also go to area schools to counsel children. As a counselor, Berry will be bound by confidentiality, unless the client signs a waiver for her to speak to law enforcement or other medical professionals. Call for Help medical and legal advocate Traci James will provide support to the clients unsure of whether to release such information.

In a basic sense, an advocate acts as a liaison between the client and medical and legal professionals and law enforcement to ensure clients are treated with dignity and respect. James said she can also talk clients through their choices for what to do following a sexual assault.

“It’s often times hard. Sometimes family members aren’t there — they aren’t always supportive,” she said. “And sometimes it’s uncomfortable for them to have family there.”

Additionally, James said advocates provide necessities to clients who have gone to the hospital for treatment and have reported their assault to the authorities.

“We provide clothing for the victims — flip flops, shirts, bras, underwear, jeans. Police will have to take their clothes as evidence and a lot of times when they’re reporting to police, they don’t think to bring their own clothes,” she said.

Another important step in the process involves guiding the clients through the legal process if they choose to press charges against their offender or file a lawsuit.

“The court system is very hard to navigate. It’s very confusing and when you are in trauma, it’s good to have someone hold your hand and let you know it’s OK,” James, who has eight years of prior experience as an advocate, said.

Englund said 100 percent of people who call or walk into their office for services will receive help as long as they disclose that they have been assaulted.

“If anyone feels violated in a sexual manner, that’s assault,” James added. “It can happen anywhere — at the grocery store, the buses, at school.”

Besides services offered to victims, prevention education can also come out of the Waterloo office. Englund said such education includes age appropriate instruction on what constitutes inappropriate sexual behavior.

“We’re not going to walk into a room full of kindergarteners and say, ‘Well, let me talk to you about sexual assault,’” she said. “We’ll use language like ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’”

Office hours for the Waterloo location are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To schedule a counseling appointment or for more information, go to, contact the help line at 618-397-0975, or call the Waterloo office at 939-0115.

Sexual abuse is in the news lately with accusations that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein assaulted and raped women throughout the span of his career, many of whom are now telling their stories.

In response, actor Alyssa Milano tweeted over the weekend to urge those on social media who have also been victimized to reply. The response was tremendous.

Women and men alike have heard her rallying cry and are using social media to share their stories with the hashtag #MeToo. Some write of harassment or abuse, some write about how they continue to be affected today, and still others pledge to stand up against abusers. 

#MeToo has taken over social media.  

Community support
The services Call for Help provides are free. In order to fund the organization, which relies wholly on donations, fundraisers take place throughout the area, including an upcoming pub crawl. 

The “This Witch Has Got My Back” pub crawl is slated for 5 p.m. this Saturday in Red Bud. Event participants will start at Red Bud Winery for registration.

To be eligible for a pub crawl map and prizes, bring two items to support the Sexual Assault Victim’s Care Unit — such items can include composition books, $5 gas cards, portable snacks, T-shirts and the like. Wearing a witch costume is encouraged. 

For more information, call 618-397-0968. The Waterloo office is also accepting donations of sweatpants, T-shirts, underwear, socks, sweatshirts, bras, sports bras, and gas cards. 

James also indicated that Call for Help is in need of volunteers.

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