Catherine Olmstead, new Silver Regional Sexual Assault Support Services executive director, said she is excited about the job because of the way the program has been built.

"The job for me is personal and really important to me to be able to offer services to survivors, especially in a rural area like this so they know they aren't alone," Olmstead said.

"I'm excited about the opportunity for SASS to be a safe place, not just for initial support, but for ongoing services," Olmstead continued.

"I want to bring the conversation about sexual assault to the community and to change the community attitude," she said. "That's part of the challenge that I do not expect to be easy. But it's a chance to take baby steps. That's part of why I'm here because those baby steps can be important in an individual's life.  That's why I was attracted to the position and what I'm really excited about."

She said her family relocated to the area from Florida. "The welcoming we've received is reminiscent of my hometown. I feel the sense of community, and it has happened quickly for us."

"SASS was built with a grand vision," Olmstead said. "I want to further the rural outreach in Grant and Hidalgo counties that was started by the former director, Colleen Boyd. I want to extend the partnerships. We have phenomenal non-profits and agencies working with us. I also want to extend beyond the counties we already serve.

"We need to stay on the course that SASS has set and grow it," she continued. "We have a lot of support within the community, especially with our partner agencies. I want to make sure we get to individuals. We are already reaching out through flyers with tear-offs for the phone number of the crisis line, but I want to make sure we serve more rural areas.

"Prevention is also important," Olmstead said. "It's good to be able to talk with the survivors, but close to me as a mom is prevention. It comes back to community engagement so people can have that conversation, such as about bystander intervention, which is important. The conversation is the only way to get societal change, especially in rural areas."

She said SASS and partner agencies must make sure to serve any and all "who need us. My goal is to serve everyone who needs us."

"An important partner with us is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (at Gila Regional Medical Center)," Olmstead said. "That relationship has ensured that support services are received immediately. It's so important that we have it here. We have two certified nurse examiners, and one is pediatric, with the other one training also in pediatric. The exam is just the beginning, but having it here is key. Other partners offer referrals and make sure services are in place.

"Our goal is to get each survivor to wellness," she continued.

A contract counselor offers play therapy and family programs, which can be offered onsite.

All SASS services are offered free of charge, with no insurance requirement and no income limits. Medical and law enforcement advocates are available to support the survivors in the hospital and in court.

Assistance can also be given for other needs, such as housing and income needs. "We look at all of the needs."

"Every day I go home feeling happy about what I'm doing," Olmstead said.

A crisis hotline is staffed 24/7 by trained volunteers at 1-866-750-6474.

For more information about SASS, call 575-313-6203.

Live from Silver City

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