LONGWOOD, Fla. -- Victims of sexual assault in Seminole County haven’t always had guaranteed services to help cope with what they’ve gone through -- but that’s changing.

  • Victim Service Center designated as certified rape crisis center
  • Sexual assault victims in Seminole to be offered help immediately

The Victim Service Center of Central Florida provides help to crime victims.

It was just recently designated as a certified rape crisis center for Seminole County. That means every sexual assault victim will immediately be offered help.

“That will have access to crisis counseling immediately, and that crisis to care right of way is going to make a huge difference in someone beginning to heal,” said Bianca Sabrkhani, Development and Communications Director for VSC.

When Diana Oakley was just 17, she says a traumatic accident while riding her bike quickly turned into an all-out nightmare when she learned the man who crashed into her did it on purpose.

“I was struck from behind by a pickup truck,” Oakley said. “Instead of taking me to the hospital, he drove me to a deserted field where he sexually assaulted me.”

Oakley says luckily, her attacker was caught and sent to prison.  But she says it was 16 years before she got help with the emotional scars left behind.

“It disrupted my entire life, how I raised my children. I wouldn’t let them out of my sight, I wouldn’t let them spend the night at friends’ houses,” Oakley said.

Oakley says in her community in upstate New York, she didn’t have access to get the help she needed.  She says the new assistance available to victims in Seminole County will reach many people who may otherwise not come forward to get help.

“Because I know they’re out there,” Oakley said. “There are so many men and women who unfortunately are victims of sexual assault -- and even sexual childhood abuse -- that don’t get the help they need because they don’t want to talk about it -- they’re embarrassed, they feel shame.”

The Victim Service Center of Central Florida’s Seminole County location is near The Sharing Center off Highway 1792 in Longwood.