A FEW MINUTES WITH … Racheal Hebert

OCCUPATION: Executive director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response Center.

AGE: 28.

Racheal Hebert was named executive director of the Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response Center in November after helping the Baton Rouge-based organization move into the nonprofit sector. Hebert has worked at STAR, formerly known as the Rape Crisis Center, since 2008. She graduated from LSU with a degree in sociology and women’s and gender studies from LSU and is pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

What is STAR and what type of services does it provide to the Baton Rouge community?

STAR, the only sexual-assault agency within the surrounding seven parishes, provides support, education and advocacy to empower all individuals and families affected by sexual trauma. STAR provides 24-hour support through our crisis hotline — (225) 383-7273 — and on-call hospital advocates, legal advocacy, individual counseling, group counseling, and support groups. All services are confidential and free of charge.

How is STAR funded and what is its annual budget?

Our annual budget is $500,000, half of which is funded by generous contributions from the East Baton Rouge District Attorney, Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office. STAR also receives federal funding through the Office of Violence Against Women, which is administered through the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault. Remaining funds come from individual donors and local foundations.

What exactly is sexual violence and how prevalent is it in our community?

Sexual violence is any sexual action performed either through coercion or without an individual’s consent. This includes child sexual abuse, rape, attempted rape, and a wide range of actions loosely referred to as sexual assault or sexual battery. National statistics indicate 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. are survivors of rape, with an estimated 60 percent to 90 percent of rapes unreported each year. In 2011, STAR provided services to 451 survivors and their loved ones through support and advocacy services. In 2012, this number increased to 668.

What can area residents do to try to prevent future incidents of sexual violence?

Be respectful in all interactions with others, and specifically to prioritize consent in sexual relationships. It is equally important for individuals to intervene when they witness disrespectful or abusive behavior. We should not accept sexual violence as a normal part of our everyday lives and culture.

Who are the primary victims of sexual violence and who are the primary perpetrators?

Sexual violence is a crime that affects all ages, classes, races, ethnicities and genders. A perpetrator is most likely to assault someone he or she is acquainted with, which is why upwards of 85 percent of victims know their abuser. Children are at the highest risk for sexual assault and abuse. Sexual abuse and assault are crimes that are premeditated and planned, and are not dependent on opportunity.

Anything else you would like to add?

STAR has just moved locations to 8281 Goodwood Blvd. and will be hosting an open house for the community on Jan. 29 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, or to learn how to get involved, please visit www.brstar.org.

Advocate staff writer Kimberly Vetter

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