By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
A recent Gainesville Lions Club meeting included a program about a community initiative to help sexual assault victims.
Abigail’s Arms staff members discussed the agency’s Sexual Assault Interagency Forensic (SAIF) team. The SAIF is designed to assist victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes.
Abigail’s Arms community liaison and advocate Kelly Fiore-Watson discussed the program along with Abigail’s Arms victim services and SAIF team manager Ginger Johnson.
The project is supported by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
The SAIF team is organized with representatives from: Abigail’s Arms; Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE); Gainesville Police Department; Cooke County Sheriff’s Department; North Texas Medical Center; Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; the Cooke County attorney; the Cooke County district attorney; and North Central Texas College.
“Community leaders from these organizations have teamed up to provide victim-centered services to victims of sexual assault in this county,” Fiore-Watson explained.
The initiative has set into place ways to assist victims of violence in the Cooke County area by setting up professional teams, locations and procedures that will help ease the trauma of victims.
A former member of the Denton Police Department, Ginger Johnson has been an invaluable aide to Abigail’s Arms as well as the SAIF program, Fiore-Watson said.
Johnson has also played an important role in setting up a new program entitled Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPPS).
“This program consists of groups for family violence offenders, in which offenders are held accountable for past abusive behavior and taught the fundamentals of leading a nonviolent lifestyle,” Johnson said.
“Although BIPPS work directly with offenders, the underlying goal of these programs is to enhance the safety of battered women and their children.”
Johnson said providing services for the innocent victims of family violence is vital but going the extra step to take action to stop future violence is also necessary.
“BIPPS are unique in that they create the possibility of actually stopping future violence,” Johnson said.
Funding for the BIPP program has been delayed but Johnson said she is looking forward to a January start date.
“The full program is six months long and a participant can start anywhere in the course and if attending regularly should finish the program in that six month time frame,” she said.
The Abigail’s Arms 24 hour hotline is 940-665-2873. The website is www.abigailsarms.org.