New Program Provides Legal Aid for Sexual Assault Survivors

Every year over 5,000 Texoma victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will be helped by Wichita Falls non-profit agency First Step. During the holiday season First Step expects to see an increase in the number of victims. Now there is one more avenue for victims to get help. Newschannel 6 sat down with First Step who says free legal help and representation is now available.

Mary Franco, Program Manager with First Step incorporated says when a sexual assault survivor is provided with free and confidential legal services, they are one step closer to finding closure and healing.

A new program offers not only legal help, but a new sign of hope to survivor victims of sexual assault. Franco comments, "Now with this extra funding and of course more people available, and more resources, we now have another referral for our clients."

The new program comes at a time during the holiday season when shelters across Texoma are at full capacity, of people dealing with domestic violence and or sexual assault. The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, located in Austin was awarded the grant to provide attorney's to help surviving victims. Torie Camp, Deputy Director for TAASA says, "This program is trying to provide a service for sexual assault survivors. To make sure that a sexual survivors can find justice and get the legal assistance they need to move on with their lives."

TASSA says providing survivors with free legal aid is a huge help. Survivors can get legal assistance with anything from safety, financial, immigration, education, or employment assistance.

And with one more avenue available out there for survivors of sexual assault, Franco hopes residents needing the help will come forward. "All our services are free. It is all confidential and no one is going to know you called us. And of course you're going to be in a safe place."

First Step says usually right after the holiday season their  hotline numbers keep busy and their shelters will reach full capacity. They say financial strain or substance abuse throughout the holidays can all be contributing factors for domestic violence or sexual assault.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and or sexual assault, and is needing legal assistance you can contact The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault            at 888-343-4414, or click here to visit the website.

If you would like to contact First Step in Wichita Falls you can reach them through their two 24-hour crisis hotline numbers at 940-692-1993 or 1-800-658-2683.  First Step also provides temporary shelter for clients in need.

Natalie Garcia,  Newschannel 6