#minorsextrafficking | HAVEN says sex assault, domestic violence reporting up on the Seacoast | Crime

Reports of sexual and domestic violence on the Seacoast are going up as victims are finding ways to reach out for help after a year in isolation due to COVID-19.

“We’re seeing more opportunity for folks to reach out, especially in the beginning of the day,” Devin Oot, development director at HAVEN in Portsmouth, said.

Oot said between Feb. 22 and March 23, they went to 58 Child Advocacy Center appointments to provide support to nonoffending caregivers; accompanied victims in 16 court hearings; and took 420 hotline calls.

HAVEN has offices in Epping and Rochester. Their Rochester location is next to the Strafford County Family Justice Center in the city’s community center.

The Strafford County Family Justice Center provides services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, stalking and human trafficking.

Their client care team works with people to assess their situation, answer questions, provide resources and connect them with services.

Haylee Mitchell, client care coordinator and case manager at the justice center, said there is a lot of overlap between sexual assault and domestic violence.

“I see a lot of the same faces again and again. It just goes to show how difficult it is to navigate the legal system,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said a majority of her clients are mothers in their 30s who have left their domestic partner, but still need to coparent children.

Amanda Vachon, director of the justice center, said national statistics show that 80 to 90% of sexual assault victims know their perpetrator and that 40 to 45% of women in abusive relationships are sexually assaulted during their relationship.

The justice center is asking sex assault survivors to participate in their “Lotus in Bloom” art installation project.

“We’re hoping to get participants to decorate a piece of the lotus flower so that we can put them all together at the end when they’re all decorated to create a visual kind of representation of hope and healing,” Vachon said.

Vachon said they chose the lotus flower, which has petals that open one by one, because it grows in mud.

HAVEN is a partner in the project.

“The idea of using the analogy of a lotus never seemed more appropriate than it does now,” Oot said.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

For more information about “Lotus in Bloom,” call 603-509-1916. HAVEN has a 24-hour support line. That number is 603-994-7233.

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