Support Services Expand to 24-hour Rape Crisis Center

Published: February 26, 2018

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Gina Hays, Dir., Communications & Development


Indianapolis (February 21, 2018)—Families First has been awarded a grant in the amount of $258,906 by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) from the Sexual Assault Victim Assistance Fund (SAVAF) to expand Families First’s existing Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) program. This program expansion will include: a rape crisis center with 24-hour response for rape survivors to four Centers of Hope (Community Hospitals East, North, and South, and St. Francis Hospital); 24-hour hotline for rape and sexual violence survivors; information and referral services; advocacy for sexual assault survivors; case management, specialized individual counseling and support groups for survivors of sexual trauma; community awareness and prevention education presentations about sexual violence; and trauma-informed training for first responders, teachers, social workers and the general public.

“We want to create an environment where all individuals can safely talk about their experiences and access the level of support that meets their individual needs,” shared Jennifer Hedlund, Program Director for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence programs at Families First. “Our sexual assault work will go beyond direct service programming. We will be engaging the community in prevention efforts through conversations about sexual assault and the impact on individuals and our community.”

SAVAF grant funds will also be used to hire two additional full-time staff - a Community Engagement Specialist, and a Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate. The Community Engagement Specialist will focus on facilitating engagement with local hospitals to educate them about the SASS program and Families First’s availability to provide 24-hour response to survivors of sexual trauma. This person will also participate in community meetings that focus on sexual assault violence, and will conduct additional outreach to local organizations to increase the visibility of the new rape crisis center. The Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate will focus primarily on providing direct service to sexual assault victims, via personal visits, telephone support, crisis intervention, and court advocacy.

The SASS program will work closely with the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault (ICESA) - designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the coalition to coordinate statewide efforts. Families First is ideally positioned in Marion County to build upon its strong foundation in sexual assault advocacy and support as well as the ability to respond to people in crisis on a 24/7 basis through the Crisis & Suicide Intervention hotline.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a man, woman or child is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Families First strives to meet individuals where they are, reduce barriers to getting the help that clients need, and prides itself on incorporating research-based best practices. All services provided for survivors of sexual trauma are provided free of charge. Services are culturally sensitive and special outreach is provided to underserved populations, including Hispanic and African American populations as well as LGBTQ groups. SASS’s community prevention efforts teach consent, healthy sexual relationships, and other related topics to youth and adults.

Sexual assault survivors can access services and schools, businesses, or community organizations can schedule a prevention and awareness training by calling (317) 634-6341and asking for a sexual assault advocate.

Sexual assault survivors in crisis can call the hotline at (833)-338-SASS.

About Families First

Families First was founded more than 180 years ago, by caring people in Indianapolis - people who wanted to be there for their neighbors in their time of need. And Families First is here today for those who need care, hope, and guidance - for everyday life or in times of crisis.

We've helped save marriages and keep families together. We've helped deescalate crises and break cycles of abuse. We intervene and help prevent hundreds of suicides every year. We've helped many thousands of people deal with the challenges and changes in their lives and become better parents, spouses, daughters, sons, and people.

Families First is fully accredited by the national Council on Accreditation (COA), attesting that it meets the highest standards of professional performance. For more information on how to get involved with Families First, please visit the website:

About the Indiana Sexual Assault Victims Assistance Fund

The purpose of the SAVAF program is to (1) establish, maintain, or expand dedicated rape crisis centers, (2) enhance services provided by existing rape crisis centers, and (3) develop, implement, and expand trauma informed sexual assault services to victims of sexual assault. The SAVAF program aims to provide a comprehensive statewide response for victims of sexual assault.