Women’s Center of Jacksonville opens new assault exam center

Women’s Center of Jacksonville opens new assault exam center
Front: Teresa Miles, Lisé Everly, Trisha Meili, Delores Barr Weaver, Sheriff Mike Williams, Adair Newman for Melissa Nelson, State Attorney; back: Darnell Smith, J. Wayne Weaver

The J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver S.A.F.E. Center, 5300 Emerson St., was officially opened April 24 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which included special remarks from Sheriff Mike Williams; Adair Newman, Special Assault Division Director from the State Attorney’s Office; Trisha Meili, a member of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center’s Leadership Council, and Lisé Everly, Women’s Center of Jacksonville board president.

The opening of the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam center comes just six months after the Weavers participated in a symbolic demolition of what was previously an attorney’s office on the Southside. The $1 million cost to purchase and renovate the building came from a $500,000 donation from the Weavers, along with a challenge to match another half million for an endowment. In total, the fundraising goal is $3 million and the Women’s Center is about halfway there.

“The new Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Center has truly been a ‘community initiative.’ From the first $1 million pledged by Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, to the anonymous $5 contribution that was sent in and simply signed ‘someone who survived,’ every dollar has counted and every dollar has made a difference,” said Teresa Miles, executive director for the Women’s Center.

“When we talk about it being a community initiative, we want to recognize the amazing gifts of money, as well as time and donations. Community artists are coming together to decorate our walls, contractors have discounted their services and a local furniture store has even donated all of the furniture for our waiting rooms,” Miles continued. “Recognizing that this building may likely be the first place a survivor goes following the most horrific event of their life, we have worked very hard to create a healing environment that allows each survivor to know they are ‘safe here’.” 

The S.A.F.E Center is prepared to conduct more than 300 sexual assault forensic exams each year, while ensuring survivors are treated with respect and dignity in a place filled with advocates, counselors and nurses who care. Both of the exam rooms have showers, multiple waiting rooms have comfortable furniture, and there are plans for a healing garden.

The number for the 24-hour rape crisis hotline is (904) 721-7273.

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