By Anna-Marie Menhenott
TREASURE COAST -- For Lane Frye, Julie Stoyka and the other Victim's Rights Advocates who serve the 19th Circuit, it's more than just a job, it's giving hope and help to those who need it most.
Ms. Frye and Ms. Stoyka are certified rape crisis counselors who are available to victims of sexual assault any time of the day or night.
"There's a hotline that victims can call and they are answered by a live person," Ms. Stoyka said. "Someone is always on call. The victim can be met by an advocate at the hospital or the advocate can explain some of the services available to the victim. A lot of times, they're (the victim) unaware that there are so many different organizations out there that will help victims of abuse and rape through such traumatic events."
The hotline is not just for those who have recently been the victim of sexual assault. Many times, an occurrence in daily life can bring back memories of sexual abuse, and those victims can call the hotline for help, too.
"Sometimes, a victim may attend a family reunion and come into contact with someone who abused them as a child. Then, memories can come rushing back and become overwhelming. Those victims can call and be referred to counselors and to services that can help them through those memories," Ms. Frye said.
As first responders, the Victim's Rights Advocates work hand in hand with law enforcement agencies and the State Attorney.
"It helps to have such involved departments working with us," Ms. Frye said. "State Attorney (Bruce) Colton and the local police departments are so helpful and work with us to help each victim. It's as important to them as it is to us that the victims receive the help they need."
The advocates help each victim through forensic exams, a difficult process which extracts DNA samples from the victim. Adult victims of sexual assault don't always have to press charges, something that victims who are scared to call don't always know.
"Each victim is entitled to a forensic exam," Ms. Stoyka said. "They are given the opportunity to press charges and proceed with the criminal side of things, but most importantly, they are offered the support they so often go without during such a crisis."
Under the umbrella of the State Attorney's office and a sister to the Sexual Assault Victim's Program is the Victim's Rights Coalition, an organization which focuses on all victims of violent crimes. The group not only helps the victims, it helps the families of those who have lost their lives to violent crimes.
From April 6 - 12, there will be events of empowerment and remembrance for those who have suffered at the hands of others.
There will be a "Ride for Rights" motorcycle ride on Sunday, April 6, from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Monday, April 7 will include a Remembrance Ceremony at the St. Lucie County Courthouse starting at 6 p.m. On Tuesday, April 8 there will be two free women's practical self-defense classes at the Indian River County Sheriff's office and at the Fort Pierce PAL from 6-9 p.m. There will be a memorial vigil at 7 p.m. at Memorial Island in Vero Beach on April 10 and on Friday, April 11 there will be an appreciation luncheon at noon at Old City Hall in Fort Pierce. Tickets to the lunch cost $25.
The week of remembrance raises money for the coalition, a nonprofit organization who stretches their funds to help all of those in need.
"We don't have a lot of resources, but we work with many of the nonprofits in the area to help the victims," Ms. Frye said. "Our priority is making sure the victims of violent assaults are protected."
For more information about these events, call (772) 463-1390 or (772) 878-1131.
The Rape Crisis hotline is (866) 828-7273. The Victim's Services hotline is (800) 569-7273.