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Going Public: Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence (SEMO-NASV) provides range of services to Southeast Missouri

Alix Gasser, Development Director for SEMO-NASV
Dan Woods
Alix Gasser, Development Director for SEMO-NASV

KRCU recently sat down with Alix Gasser, Development Director with Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence (SEMO-NASV) to learn more about the organization and its services.

Woods: So starting off, if you wouldn't mind just telling us about SEMO-NASV, its mission and purpose.

Gasser: Yeah, so Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence or SEMO-NASV... we are an organization that serves nine counties in Southeast Missouri. So Perry County all the way down to the bottom of the bootheel. And we provide free advocacy counseling, forensic interviews and exams for those that have faced sexual violence. So we see children and adults. And yeah, so we're basically zero to 99.

Woods: And a huge service region. I didn't realize it was that big.

Gasser: Yes. Yeah. And we're really unique, too, because we are the only child advocacy center and rape crisis center in Southeast Missouri. So a lot of the times someone's either a child advocacy center where you're just working with children or you're just working with adult survivors. We're doing both so we're kind of unique in that.

Woods: What's your role at SEMO-NASV?

Gasser: I'm the development director and I go out and let the public know about who we are and the services that we offer. All of our services are completely free. And with that, so you can do the forensic interviews, forensic exams, advocacy, the counseling. For the counseling, you don't actually have to have come to us for the other services. That's something that's offered as well. You just basically have to have experienced, unfortunately, some type of sexual violence and our counselors are trauma informed, and have special trauma therapy to work with those survivors.

Woods: And I was looking through your website you have a pretty good size staff. I didn't realize it was that big.

Gasser: I think we're up to 20 staff with full-time and part-time so and we're a wonderful team, very experienced. All of our medical staff has special training they're SANE-certified which is sexual assault nurse examiners, and there's only about 2,000 of them in the entire world so they have a very special training to be able to work with survivors of sexual violence.

Woods: So does SEMO-NASV help connect people with other resources? I know that there are a lot of other organizations, non-profits, especially they're helping folks in a lot of different ways, right?

Gasser: Yes, definitely. So a lot of the times, unfortunately, folks are not just facing sexual violence. They're also experiencing maybe homelessness or food insecurity. And so we are advocates and are kind of those connectors. We help them through the process so that they have that one less thing to worry about. We also work with Safe House of Southeast Missouri and Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center pretty frequently. We're actually doing a training with them on Thursday (September 14, 2023), to work with law enforcement on how to be trauma informed. So we pair up with different organizations pretty frequently to make sure that we know what resources are out there and then what we can share with our clients as well.

Woods: What's the biggest challenge that's faced by SEMO-NASV?

Gasser: I think the biggest challenge right now is stigma. A lot of people are afraid to report or talk about sexual violence. And so for us, we really want to start those conversations early and often. So we actually have the Green Bear Project program that goes into local schools and teaches abuse prevention education, pre-K through 12th grade. That program also teaches mandated reporters. So those are like teachers, social workers, nurses, anyone that works with children, they're legally a mandated reporter. And then we also have parenting classes as well — raising healthy children in your community. And those are all completely free.

And we want to start those conversations early so that kids can recognize body safety and when something happens, it's not their fault and so the more we talk about it, the more people will feel comfortable reporting and getting those services that they need. And we know that counseling is so important in that process. And so part of it is just taking that step to actually talk about it.

Woods: So with challenges, there's always opportunities, what do you see as opportunities for the organization?

Gasser: For us, it's just working to continue to improve the services in Southeast Missouri. So we actually opened a satellite office in New Madrid this past April, and that offers services down in the bootheel region. So folks have less travel time to get to us. Because we serve such a large service region, from basically exit zero all the way up to exit 159, if I'm not mistaken. And so we have our satellite office at exit 49 in New Madrid, and then our Jackson office at 103. And so we're trying to kind of get that wide cross section. And then we just moved into another suite in our building and we've separated counseling from our forensic services. So that way, a survivor that comes in to us to do their actual disclosure process never have to go into the same space to receive the counseling. So that can really help be trauma informed for those folks. So we're seeing a lot of expansion. And our green bear program just started with the high school program this past fall. And so we're seeing a lot of great things in the community.

Woods: Is community support pretty good for for you guys?

Gasser: Yeah, we I mean, we could always use more, but we're always looking for ways to reach out we love talking to different service organizations about who we are and what we do. We really just want to get the word out about our services. And again, they're completely free. And we encourage folks who that have experienced some type of sexual violence to reach out to us because we're here.

Woods: And you're a nonprofit. So how can folks help if they want to help SEMO-NASV?

Gasser: Yes, definitely. So we're always looking for volunteers. We have office work, we have our Green Bear program that we're always looking for support for. We have our big event that comes up in April with Child Abuse Prevention Month in Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. So Saturday, April 20, 2024, will be our day in the park with green bear and that is a free community event. And we're always looking for volunteers and vendors for that event. And then donations are always accepted as well. And you can find out more at our website semonasv.org/donate.

Dan is a 1994 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University. He majored in radio and minored in political science. He spent three of his four years at Southeast working as a student announcer at KRCU – the beginning of his radio career.