Sally Sheppard is the Executive Director of The Cottage Sexual Assault Center & Children’s Advocacy Center in Athens, Georgia.
CACGA: What is The Cottage and its mission?
Sally Sheppard: The Cottage is a non-profit organization that serves both victims of sexual assault and child abuse. Our mission is to provide intervention, advocacy, referrals, and support for survivors and families impacted by child abuse and sexual assault. The Cottage also raises awareness and provides prevention education about these issues. We serve individuals and families living in Clarke, Oconee, Madison and Oglethorpe Counties.
CACGA: What would you like your community to know about the professionals who work at The Cottage?
Sally Sheppard: We have the most professionally, passionate and well trained staff of all agencies working with child abuse and sexual assault. I truly believe this because it is a high priority to pay my staff a salary that is deserving of a professional within the field of child abuse and sexual assault. I also feel that it is important to offer my staff incredible opportunities to expand and renew their knowledge of child abuse and sexual assault, annually. It is also a priority of The Cottage that our staff maintain healthy boundaries and self-care. This work is incredibly intense and affects our lives outside of work. We need to take care of ourselves so we can help take care of others.
CACGA: What would the Western Judicial Circuit be without The Cottage?
Sally Sheppard: Our judicial circuit would lack a safe place for child to come talk with a caring professional about an incident of abuse. The families of that child would lack a supportive professional to talk with them about the process of an investigation of child abuse, to explain to them the symptoms their child may exhibit due to being a victim of abuse, to give them resources for help and to set them up with therapy for both them and their child within days after the forensic interview. The children and families impacted by child abuse would lack a safe place to attend free individual therapy sessions along with free support groups for all age groups. The Western Judicial Circuit would lack competent professionals in the field of child abuse and sexual assault to testify in Juvenile and Superior Court about a child’s statement of abuse or about the dynamics of abuse. The child victim and their family would lack support during the criminal justice process. In short, there would be a great number of both children and families impacted by child abuse and sexual assault that would not receive viable services and resources to help them to the path of healing.
CACGA: How can people in your community become involved with the The Cottage?
Sally Sheppard: The Cottage has a needs list posted on our website www.northgeorgiacottage.org. This is a list of simple items that the community can purchase to help The Cottage. Also, The Cottage has a 24/7 Crisis Hotline. We continually train hotline volunteers to assist with answering this 24/7 Crisis Hotline. More information about that opportunity is also on our website.
The Cottage also has a few programs in prevention of child sexual abuse. Please contact The Cottage if you can help us set up a group to speak to about prevention of child sexual abuse.
CACGA: Why do you do what you do professionally?
Sally Sheppard: I began this work as a forensic interviewer. At that time in my life, I really enjoyed the intensity of being a forensic interviewer. I really enjoyed testifying in court. Now that I am the Executive Director, I find great joy in developing my staff to be the best in responding to child abuse and sexual assault. I love the community that I work within and I want this area to be a safe place for both children and adults to be free of abuse and sexual assault. Or if we can’t live in a world free of child abuse and sexual assault, I find it is my mission to help those who have been abused and assaulted to heal from the trauma.