HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Survivors of sexual assault will get greater access to help in Hillsborough County next year as the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay plans to open a new facility in an underserved part of the county.
Jennifer Thayer is always there to help those facing some of the toughest traumas in their life.
“We believe you, and we are here to help you,” said Thayer.
She’s the Director of Nursing at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and oversees the team of sexual assault nurse examiners.
The Crisis Center provides specialized services to survivors of sexual assault in Hillsborough County, but currently, these services are provided at its main facility in north Tampa. That can be a significant journey for some people in south Hillsborough County.
“Spending three to six hours here and then a whole other hour or more drive home, it really deters people from coming and seeking out the services that they need and that are super beneficial to them,” said Thayer.
That trip can be made even more difficult to people without access to personal transportation.
“That can be an upwards of a three and a half-hour bus ride to try to get here one way for an exam that can take on average five hours, and then another three and a half hour bus ride home, if you can get a bus? Forget it. Folks just weren’t doing that,” said Clara Reynolds, the President and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Now, the Crisis Center is expanding access with plans to open a second sexual assault services facility in Ruskin next August. Reynolds explains south county has seen a big population boom and has a population that’s underserved when it comes to crisis intervention services.
“By having two centers that will be working simultaneously, we hope to eliminate any wait for any victim of sexual assault to get the help and support that they need,” said Reynolds.
The new facility will be within the Hillsborough County South Shore Community Resource Center in Ruskin. Advocates want people in need to know they never need to face a crisis alone no matter where they are.
“Trauma untreated doesn’t go away. It will continue to manifest itself,” said Reynolds. “There is help and support available here at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to take you from that trauma point to get you back to help, hope, and healing.”
The Crisis Center reminds people anyone can connect to services by calling 211. Calls are confidential and are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.