By Ms. Melanie Barton

Ms. Melanie has been the PREA Advocate Coordinator for MSCASA since 2015. She also works with establishing community SART’s throughout the state. Melanie is a graduate of Alcorn State University and a dedicated church member where she co-chairs the community comprehensive health committee and is Red Cross trained disaster relief team member. She also has worked to obtain several years of Faith-Based Training Initiatives certifications to work with faith-based leadership in the local church regarding sexual assault and domestic violence emotional support.
The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MSCASA) is a statewide non-profit, nongovernmental victims’ advocacy organization representing sexual assault centers in Mississippi. MSCASA provides direct support to member rape crisis centers through training and technical assistance, outreach activities, public awareness, education and resources. MSCASA work with advocates, healthcare providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, military, college campuses, faith-based and community-based organizations to enhance their response to victims of sexual assault. MSCASA coordinate State victim service activities by collaborating with federal, state and local entities engaged in ending violence in Mississippi.

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 and 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime
  • 51.1% of female victims report being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger
  • 91% of reported victims of rape & sexual assault are female
  • 9% of reported victims of rape & sexual assault are male

Sexual Assault is one of the most under-reported crimes today. It occurs approximately 2 times more than murder and manslaughter according to 2016 Mississippi Crime Statistics & Rates Report (MS). 

Our news media overload us with stories about murder, robbery, and homicide constantly. It is rare that we hear news stories about sexual assault and rape, when they are reported. Sexual Assault has no boundaries on where it occurs: in our homes, workplace, college campuses, primary and secondary schools, nursing homes, prisons and jails. Yes, it basically can occur anywhere in the community.

MSCASA has been working diligently to address sexual violence in the community by enhancing victim services for sexual assault survivors to access. One way is by helping communities to establish and build a coordinated effort to respond to sexual assault. 

Below are two of our agency special programs.

What is a SART?
 A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a multidisciplinary or coordinated community response in which key players from the community and systems are brought together to develop guidelines responding to sexual assault in their communities. These coordinated responses utilize the resources of the community providing access to sexual assault survivors and provide education to first responders and community

Who are SART members?
Core SART members generally consist of Rape Crisis Advocates, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), Law Enforcement Officers, Sheriff’s Department, Mental Health Care professionals, Child Protective Services and Prosecutors. Other community resources agency members (schools, college campus, faith leaders, DHS, medical clinic staff, community leaders...) are encouraged to be a part of the SART due to their knowledge and resources they provide in the community.

MSCASA assisted in establishing and building SART teams in Leflore County, Holmes County, Forrest/Lamar Counties , Sunflower and Warren County. Each SART team is as unique as the counties and members that continue their efforts in enhancing sexual assault services by promoting and implementing SART’s in these counties.

Leflore County is facilitated by the SANE nurses on staff at the Greenwood Leflore Hospital and community members. Our House, Inc. serves as service providers and consultant.

Holmes County SART was organized by and is being facilitated by community members. Our House, Inc. serves as a consultant for this team.

Forrest/Lamar County is being facilitated by the local rape crisis center.

Warren County newly formed SART is currently being facilitated by MSCASA.

Sunflower County recently formed SART is currently being facilitated by Our House, Inc. and DART-Domestic Abuse Response Team under the leadership of Delta Health Alliance.

Bolivar and Washington Counties SARTs are currently being developed by MSCASA (through Our House, Inc.), DART and local community leaders.

It is our goal to continue establishing sexual assault response teams throughout the state in order to enhance services to sexual assault survivors, improve access to healing services, justice for victims/survivors, and increase offender accountability.
Styles of SARTS
The SARTs use different styles in order to do the work in their communities. Sometimes both styles combined works.

(1)     Acute Response – Response to individual cases as they present at hospital, advocacy agency or law enforcement office.

(2)     Systems Focused – Response as a team; Outside of crisis response; to identify key areas of improvement for response.

Choosing the style of SART that is best for your community is important and depends on what the community can support and sustain.
MSCASA will continue to support the SARTs in our state by providing training opportunities, technical assistance to ensure sustainability and cohort opportunities among SART members and communities.

If you or your community is interested in establishing a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to enhance response to sexual assault victims OR if you would like to learn more about responding to sexual assault, please contact MCASA at (601) 948-0555 or 888-987-9011 .

On September 4, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). This law was to address rape in our prisons, jails and detention centers in the United States. Standards were developed to detect, prevent and respond to prison rape in detention centers. MSCASA began working with MS Department of Corrections (MDOC) in 2013 to address sexual assault in confinement. In 2015 MSCASA and MDOC entered into an MOU agreement to collaborate in PREA compliance, engaging local sexual assault programs to address need, and train staff in response to sexual assault.

PREA Advocate Coordinator and local programs ensure incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse have access to victim services as the community level of care. 
Facilities Covered Under PREA 
Federal, State, Private and local facilities are covered under the law. 

  • Prisons
  • Community Confinement Facilities or Community Work Centers (CWC) 
  • Jails & Lock-ups
  • Juvenile Detention Centers

MDOC currently houses inmates age 18 and older. Any offender under 18 years of age is held at the Youthful Offender Unit (YOU) in Pearl, MS. 
The following PREA Standards under the 2003 Law made provisions for access and advocacy for incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. This allows the PREA Advocate Coordinator and rape crisis advocates to provide victim services to this population of survivors: 
  • 115.21 Evidence Protocol & Forensic Medical Exam
  • 115.53 Access to Outside Confidential Support Services
  • 115.54 Third-Party Reporting
  • 115.82 Access to Emergency Medical & Mental Health Services
  • 115.83 Ongoing medical/MH services for SA victims & abusers

  • 1 in 10 former adult state inmates reported being sexually abused while in detention. 
  • 1 in 5 male inmates report sexual abuse by another inmate were abused within the first 24 hours. 
  • 1 in 3 male inmates report sexual abuse by corrections staff were abused with the first 24 hours.

It may surprise you that some of the same groups in confinement are targeted for sexual abuse, are the same groups that are targeted in the community:

  • LBGQTI (Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay, Queer, Transgender & Intersex)
  • Mental Illness
  • Youthful offenders in adult confinement
  • First time offenders

The PREA Advocate Coordinator (PAC) has provided sexual assault specific training to the MDOC correction partners and participated in a regional correctional PREA facility audit. MDOC Staff attendees include Correction Officers, Probation/Parole Officers, medical personnel, kitchen staff and New Cadet Orientation Training. PAC continues to provide annual training to Stone County Regional Correctional Facility with their commitment to provide annual refresher trainings. MSCASA has enhanced the first responder’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to sexual assault in confinement. We continue to build on training modules annually which has proven to be beneficial. 

Staff Training
One state facility provided a comprehensive inmate education training opportunity to their inmates coordinated and facilitated by MSCASA and an advocate from local sexual assault program. The training provided inmate interaction and opportunities to ask questions and have a better understanding of resources. 

MSCASA provides Emotional Support services to incarcerated survivors by:
  • In- Person Visits
  • Confidential Written Correspondence (Mail)
  • Hotline Access

Third-Party Reports      
You could be a third-party reporter. If someone is sexually abused or harassed while in prison and felt vulnerable, you could report on their behalf by contacting MSCASA via telephone, or written correspondence. It is that simple. Provide the inmate’s name and/or inmate # on their behalf. You may also use the online form on the MDOC website to report. It is NOT necessary to include your name to report on this form. 

If you need assistance in reporting, feel free to contact MSCASA office. It is important for incarcerated survivors to know they have a right to an outside community advocate when faced with sexual abuse. You can be an additional resource for this population. 

“Alone, we can do so little;
together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller
Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault Informational Listing
Our House, Inc.

# Giving Tuesday is December 3rd. It's a day when people around the world are encouraged to support the causes they care about. It is also our Executive Director's 60th Birthday.

At Our House, Inc. we are here for survivors. So many of our community family members, friends and neighbors have been effected by domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

This #Giving Tuesday, we are asking for $60 dollars to help address the urgent need for a call to action to end interpersonal violence.

If you don't have $60 or would like to give more, please give the best that you can for this tremulous need.

More survivors and their family can go to sleep with security and safety if we foster a community commitment to give them the support they deserve.

donation to Our House  helps our work of changing the way society responds to domestic violence and sexual assault.

You may give by cash app, givelify, paypal, go fund me or by check. Visit our website to donate and learn more about our agency.

Help us make this the Best Giving Tuesday Ever....
Other Ways to Give
To kick off our giving season, Woodmen Life ( Standing Strong for Generations) agents, family and friends donated 51 Christmas bags filled with "goodies" for our clients. They even color coordinated the bags by the appropriate age.
Thank you so much, Beverly Rives!!!!!I
Message from our Director:

Becky and I were joined by Cassandra Rule director of DART-Domestic Response Team in Jackson, MS to celebrate MS Coalition Against Domestic Violence - Purple for Peace Luncheon in October.

More information about our October Activities can be viewed on our web site.

Holidays can be difficult for survivors...Please Believe them. This is a major part of their healing process, to be believed.

Thank you for your support of our services.

 Dr. Patricia Ann Davenport
CEO-Our House, Inc.
Local Resources for the MS Delta Area:

Domestic Abuse Response Team(DART)

MS Valley State University
Counseling Center
Campus Violence Prevention 
and Intervention Program

Our House, Inc.
24 hour/7 days a week
Helpline: 662-332-LOVE (5683)
Office line: 662-334-6873
Our House - Mission Statement
To lead, empower and inspire change by eliminating domestic violence and sexual violence through intervention, prevention, prosecution, victim protection and sustainable restoration in rural communities; and, to enhance the lives of survivors of interpersonal violence by providing services that meet the psychological, spiritual and cultural needs of those we serve.