V3 April 2019

Page 1


A Natural Selection

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Our beloved sports guru, JIM ALRED, gives us a few words of wisdom he has learned from sports and those words are: Get back up.


MONICA SHEPPARD is back with a story of strength told by a woman who has mastered the art of telling it like it is.


If your sweet tooth gets the best of you while you are out and about in Bartow County, HEAVEN SCENT CUPCAKES keeps their ovens warm and their icing fresh for their customers.



TERRI COX, Program Director for Bartow County’s beloved GRAND THEATRE, is taking a bow and ending her 20 year career organizing educational opportunities inspired by the performing arts.


Volunteer medical professionals with the FREE CLINIC OF ROME celebrate helping the uninsured cope with sudden illness for the past 15 years.


With 420 ACRES OF STREAMS, hiking trails and lush, wooded hillsides to explore, HARDY REALTY says this property is a must see for owners wishing to disconnect from the mainstream and reconnect with nature.


April is SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH, and V3’s Lauren Jones-Hillman reveals that bringing sexual predators to justice starts with Georgia law enforcement’s ability to process the evidence.

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Publisher's Note

OWNER & CEO Ian Griffin EDITORIAL MANAGER Oliver Robbins, Jr. MAG DESIGN Laura Allshouse Ellie Borromeo

O W N E R & C E O Ian Griffin

SO, IT IS APRIL and somehow I’m still stuck between falling back and springing forward.

I can’t remember the last time the annual time change messed with me like this. Upon analyzing the situation I think there are a lot of factors beyond the time change that contributed to my zombie-like state this past month. Just before my 39th birthday the flu swept through our house, and then on the day itself, I injured my toe, limiting my exercise routine for weeks. Then the clock rolled forward and I went off the rails. It’s crazy how a chain of events can set you so far off course, but so far year 39 has been an uphill climb back to normal. Luckily I have work to keep me in check and all things V3 force me to battle through my current state of lethargy. That and lots of coffee. Honestly though, the group of people I have been blessed to work with here make coming to the office, in any condition, a pleasure. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but even at our busiest the willingness to back each other up and get the job done is always present. It’s an infectious attitude that both my normal and zombie self appreciate more than words can say. Now that I’m done bragging on my staff, April is always a fun month for us here at V3. As we usher in the start of spring, I am happy knowing that this edition offers a great variety of features and columns for our readers to enjoy. From a bakery in Downtown Cartersville, to a hard-hitting feature from contributing writer Lauren Jones-Hillman, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the following pages. I also would love to invite all of you dedicated readers of the magazine to visit our new website, www.readv3.com. On that site you will find all of the magazine articles, including archives, along with exclusive online content that is offered on a weekly basis in a smart-device friendly format. This region has more stories to tell than we can fit in our pages each month and the addition of readv3.com allows us to deliver the same quality content and photos seen in our magazine and then some. We hope you visit and subscribe and as always, thanks for reading.

WRITERS Oliver Robbins, Jr., Jim Alred, Lauren Jones-Hillman, McKenzie Todd, Rachel Reiff, Ian Griffin, DeMarcus Daniel, Monica Sheppard, Elizabeth Blount EXECUTIVE PHOTOGRAPHER Cameron Flaisch CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER Jason Huynh AD SALES + CLIENT RELATIONS Chris Forino AD DESIGN Elizabeth Blount Ellie Borromeo PUBLISHER V3 Publications, LLC CONTACT 417 Broad Street Rome, Ga. 30161 Office Phone 706.235.0748 v3publications@gmail.com CREATOR Neal Howard

READV3.COM ReadV3.com: Where you can now find all the print content from this issue, our archives and exclusive ReadV3 digital features. 8




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LIFE For the Love of the Game with Jim Alred




“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” - Confucius There is a scene in the movie “Chariots of Fire” that has stuck with me throughout my life. For those unfamiliar with it, the movie tells the story of British runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell and their journey to the 1924 Olympics. It’s most famous scene is probably the opener and the closer showing a large group of runners sprinting down the beach to the musical score, which earned an Oscar nomination. However, the scene that sticks with me comes early in the film when Liddell falls at the beginning of a 400-meter race. For those unfamiliar with track and field, the 400 is one lap around the track. Typically, when an athlete falls in that race, they have no prayer of winning. Liddell gets up off the ground, puts his head down and manages to outkick the other competitors to win. Just after the finish line, he collapses to the track, his lungs heaving from the effort. A man watching the event, who later becomes Liddell’s coach, walks over to him, helps pick him up and has a succinct quote to sum up what everyone just witnessed. “That’s not the fastest 400 I’ve ever seen, but it was certainly the bravest.” A few years back, a local runner at Model High School dominated almost every cross country race. He often sported mismatched, colorful knee-high socks and used a swift punishing kick to devastate opponents. Entering the state championship his junior season, Chris Akins, stood as one of several race favorites. At the end of the first mile, he held a solid lead over the field, but something happened. A runner from Westminster set his sights on Akins, reeled him in over the next 2.1 miles and

managed to hold him off for the state title. Akins finished as state runner-up. Not many people would consider finishing at state runner-up a failure, and I’d agree. But not many people understand the feeling of having a state title in their grasp only to watch someone else wrest it free. Akins spent the next year working hard. I’m sure he had visions of the athlete who managed to best him for 365 days. Akins arrived at the state championships a year later with one goal. This time he had a smaller lead at the mile mark and made sure no one could pass him, crossing the finish line more than 20 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. In the late 1970s at Emsley Laney High School in Wilmington North Carolina, a precocious sophomore who stood 5’11” tried out for the basketball team. Although he had skills, the coaches felt his height or lack thereof was too much of a hindrance. The player didn’t relish not making the varsity squad but instead of dwelling on the failure, he worked hard - harder than he had ever worked before. It didn’t hurt that he added about six inches of height either. The next season the player made the varsity team and eventually got recruited and signed with the University of North Carolina, won a national championship with the Tar Heels and went on to become an NBA legend. Michael Jordan has talked about the setback his sophomore year many times, and has said it might have been one of the best things that ever happened to him, because it fueled a fire that might never have been brought out if not for that temporary failure. U.S. Olympic speedster Dan Jensen became the focus of attention at the games in Calgary. In the 1984 games, Jansen had been a precocious 16-year older bound for greatness. He didn’t medal but placed well in the sprints.

In 1988, Jansen entered the Olympics as a favorite to win a medal in the sprints. Jansen learned hours before the 500 meters that his sister had lost her fight with cancer. Jansen attacked the race like a demon but fell midway through the event. He suffered the same fate a few days later in the 1,000 meters, falling late in the race while on track to most likely grab the gold medal. Four years later, Jansen returned to the Olympics. He finished fourth in the 500 and 26th in the 1,000. Although he continued to dominate in all other competitions, he had yet to secure an Olympic medal. In the 1994 Olympics, Jansen placed eighth in his best event the 500, leaving him one last chance to grab a medal in the 1,000. For Jansen, the sixth time proved the charm as he sped to first place in the 1,000 not only capturing the Olympic medal which eluded him through four Olympics but finishing first atop the podium with the gold medal. Watching Jansen win the gold medal in the morning hours in 1994 brought tears to my eyes, and I’m sure to many of those who had followed his story for almost a decade. A couple of months ago many of us made promises to ourselves more commonly referred to as New Years’ resolutions. Maybe it was a goal to lose weight, get in better shape or make positive life changes. My sincere hopes are everyone out there has managed to stick with theirs. I however have not. But that’s not a first for me. My hope is like the above athletes myself and others can draw inspiration from their stories, rise up from our failures and get back on track. Although we may not be chasing state, national or Olympic glory we can all find inspiration for our own goals through these and other stories.

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A woman as bold as brass Tiger Lily with Monica Sheppard JANE RUSSELL AND HOWARD HUGHES almost forced Lenora Santoro’s mother to birth her in the car in the hospital parking lot. Lenora’s grandfather owned the movie theaters in her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, theaters he had built in the 1920s. In the late 40s, as Lenora was due to arrive, the family theaters were screening the highly controversial Howard Hughes film, “The Outlaw”, in which a scantily-clad Rio McDonald (Jane Russell) kisses Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel) in a haystack. The film was causing quite a stir and the priest at the Catholic hospital refused to let her mother in, citing that their family was responsible for presenting that awful film to the community. Something tells me that some silver-tongued crafting was involved, but her father finally talked the priest into letting them in, convincing him that the birth was eminent and there was no other choice. Once Lenora was safely delivered, the family debated what to name her. “I’ve been told that my uncle kept saying, ‘Jane! You should call her Jane because we’ve made so much money off of that film!’” Lenora says. Her father told her people were lined down the street to see the film, it was so scandalous. “When I saw it years later, I was surprised,” she remembers. “It was nothing compared to what’s showing in films now!” It is true. The scene is not nearly as sexy as you might think it would be, given all of the uproar. It was so shocking at the time that it was held for months before being released to theaters. It is really kind of comical to watch the film now. It is rough around the edges and loaded with melodramatic lingering, longing stares and climax-building orchestral music that were made popular in the film noir genre. Film was such an important part of the postwar 16



American culture that anything that pushed the boundaries, especially in such a salacious manner, was bound to turn heads, not to mention turning a profit at the box office. Radio was fading and television hadn’t yet taken over. The most important form of affordable entertainment was whatever was showing on the big screen. “Back then they had Saturday matinees where you would get a dish with your ticket to the film. Those dishes, collected by my family, were the dishes I took to my first apartment in college,” Lenora recalls. “They came in different patterns, but mine had a big rose on them. You got a cup and saucer one weekend, a dinner plate the next, etc.” Waterbury, Conn. was a ABOVE Lenora Santoro mostly industrial town, known as The Brass City because it was the largest producer of brass in the country. The town motto was “Quid Aere perspective. It is invaluable in her diligent work Perennius?” ("What Is More Lasting Than Brass?"), with numerous nonprofits. and Waterbury brass products were sold all over Lenora came by that work ethic honestly, too. the world. When she was ten years old, her father opened the If you’ve ever met Lenora, her rearing in The first drive-in theater in Waterbury and her childhood Brass City immersed in films that exposed her to career was set as she, her brother and sister, and her much more than others might have seen, makes mother and father all jumped in to meet the demands perfect sense. She is willing to say what needs to be of the thriving business. said, no matter how hard it might be to hear, and “It was family time for us,” she says. “We all knew nothing gets past her. I have always been impressed, how to thread the projectors because that was very even a bit intimidated, by her cut-to-the-chase important, but we each had jobs like working the

box office or concessions. We could bring as many friends as we wanted, but we had to be sure the work was getting done.” She never had to worry about a date on the weekends, though it was pretty obvious that the requests always started with, “What’s playing at your dad’s theater this weekend?” Lenora points out, “It was such a different time for dating. A lot of the guys I went out with were just my really good friends and we still talk occasionally to this day.” Another factor shaping Lenora and her sister was their education at an all-girls Catholic high school, and they talk often of the need to write a book about all they learned there. “Our nuns were really firm with us and they kept saying. ‘You’re going to be women in a changing world and you need to be able to broaden your horizons and understand what’s going on around you,’” she recalls. “They were very political and they would bring in people from other faiths to make sure that we learned to bond with other religions. It was the time of Vatican II so the church was changing radically. My sister and I both say that the experience we had in high school molded us as the women we are today.” You see those lessons in every decision that Lenora has made throughout her adult life. She first went to nursing school in Boston, but changed her mind and moved back to go to Southern Connecticut State College to complete a degree in Special Education. Her first job was teaching Special Ed at an inner city high school in New Haven, Conn. “That was an experience! I was this naive 22-year-old girl that had no idea what was going on. I was trying to teach job skills to these kids, but that’s really hard when they have other ideas of how to make money,” she points out. “One of the boys in

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the class told me I was stupid. He said, ‘What you do is get five or six girls pregnant, and then you get a part of their checks every month.’ He had this planned out, he was 15 years old and that’s what he was planning on doing with the rest of his life.” Apparently, an inner city teaching job wasn’t enough of a challenge. Lenora decided she needed to really stretch herself and applied to teach in the America Schools. She got a job in Tegucigalpa, Honduras teaching first grade and setting up programs for special needs kids. She knew nothing of the culture or language, but immersed herself in the experience in order to learn. At 26, Lenora moved to Boston to get her masters in counseling and that is where she met her husband, Jim, under an umbrella. “I was working in Boston and Jim was at Tufts University doing his training to become a radiation oncologist.” After they were married, they ended up in Rome, Ga. as Jim sought a place he could play golf year round. “We were supposed to go to Atlanta but the Cancer Center wasn’t completed. They needed help in Rome, so we moved here instead and decided to stay.” Lenora immediately got involved with the Medical Alliance, then the American Cancer Society, then helped to form the Commission on Children and Youth. She worked on the First Steps program started by the Junior Service League and was asked to join the board for a newly created homeless shelter for men, The Davies Shelter. She has served on the board and in the organization ever since, playing an active role as they are now on the verge of opening a second shelter for women and children, the Ruth & Naomi House. “There is so much work to be done here to address the problem of homelessness.,” she notes. “We recently did a count and documented over 200

homeless men and women, and we know we didn’t connect with all of them.” The Shelter Executive Director, Devon Smyth, knows how invaluable Lenora’s bold leadership is. “She is always willing to ask the hard questions, with passion and integrity at her core. She shares the hope of the program with everyone she meets. She is truly dedicated to serving those in need in our community and is a real asset to our organization.” That compassion for marginalized people also drives her service to Rome’s Chieftains Museum, the former home of Cherokee leader Major Ridge. “When you think about someone coming to you and saying that you don’t own your land or your home anymore, that is something we need to remember as part of our history, and that we need to help our children remember, too.” One has to wonder, if someone like Lenora had been around at the time, the Indian Removal Act negotiations might have gone very differently. Her bold and compassionate ideals and no-nonsense approach might have been just what was needed to thwart the horrible Trail of Tears evacuation. That kind of advocacy is hard to find. “The person I am now and the things that are important to me, doing volunteer work and giving back to the community, I owe directly to those nuns from high school. They taught us that you have to give back. I believe that there’s 10 percent of the population that’s never going to be able to function well no matter what you do, and we’re going to have to figure out how to take care of them.” It takes someone as bold as brass to push a community to do good for those in need, and nothing is more lasting than that. *The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.


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SURRENDER Heaven Scent Cupcakes is all about family and their angelically sweet bakery is all about making Bartow's visitors feel right at home. TEXT ASHLEE BAGNELL PHOTOS JASON HUYNH








hen you walk in the door of this café-styled cupcake shop the first thing you notice is the sweet and satisfying scent of sugar. Cupcakes of every size and flavor line the cases along with iced cookies and cake balls. Behind the counter, you can glimpse into the kitchen to see Paula Doyle and Shelby Doyle Dunn and their amazing team working hard to bring you quality desserts all week long. Heaven Scent Cupcakes (13 South Public Square, Cartersville, Ga.) has an array of flavors to choose from. The local pick is Strawberry Shortcake, and with flavors like Lemon Mousse, Coconut Crème and Mint Chocolate Chip, patrons are guaranteed a delightful experience. While their specialty is cupcakes, the bakery also produces Oreo balls, Nutter Butter balls, cake balls and dessert cakes. But we all know that these cupcakes didn’t bake themselves. The heart of the bakery is the family that runs it. The mother-daughter duo took the reins of Heaven Scent Cupcakes in September of 2016. Paula




says, “The original owner had closed down all of her locations, so we were the only Heaven Scent. So, we thought we would bring it back to Bartow where it started.” The first member of the Doyle family to join the Heaven Scent team was their youngest daughter, Shelby. Shelby worked for the original owner throughout high school and into college. In December of 2012, she was given the opportunity to open a franchise store in Dallas, Ga. where she stayed until she took over the bakery with her mother four years later. Before Paula joined her daughter as a partner in the bakery, she was a teacher in the Bartow County school system for many years. Her early years were spent teaching music at Kingston Elementary and in 2000 she transitioned to Woodland High School to teach piano and accompany the chorus. In 2005, the Doyle family suffered a terrible loss. As a sophomore in High School, Lauren Doyle was tragically killed in a car accident.

“The original owner had closed down all of her locations, so we were the only Heaven Scent. So, we thought we would bring it back to Bartow where it started.”

Shelby was in the vehicle when the accident occurred. Lauren is very much a major part of their lives today. It has been years since she passed but the family was shaped by the loss, and Lauren’s memory keeps them together. Paula stopped teaching for a while after the accident. But after some time, she decided to continue. She added a certificate in early childhood education to her resume and began teaching kindergarten at Mission Road Elementary. She taught a Title I program tailored for schools that fall in specific socioeconomic brackets. These programs allow students to receive individual or small group aid if they are falling behind. Paula retired early in 2016 to take on the cupcake world with Shelby. “You know what, I loved teaching when I taught,” Paula says. “When I made the decision to leave the classroom, I didn’t miss it, not one minute. So that gave me the peace I needed. I just knew that it was the right thing to do.” The retired educator now runs operations at Heaven Scent fulltime and is the lead baker until 3:00 p.m. At that time, Paula ceases to be a baker and takes on a more important job: Nonni. Shelby and her Husband Tyler Dunn welcomed a baby, Kashton, into the world in January. With the new little bundle of joy, the family also acquired some office space above the bakery with a living room space and a kitchen. This allows Paula to stay close to the business and take care of her grandson while Shelby works her second job. Shelby plays triple duty with the bakery, she is a dance instructor at Fusion Dance Company just

down the street. Paula says, “Her specialty is ballet and tap, but she teaches everything.” Shelby divides her time with teaching and decorating the cakes and, of course, spending as much time with her family as she can. She has just recently returned to work after her maternity leave which gives her new little cupcake plenty of time to play with his Nonni and get acquainted with the family business. Of course, this bakery can’t function without a team of wonderful people helping the small family business to grow. Tamara Osborne, Brooklyn Miller, and Mallory Gilstrap work hard to keep the icing sweet and the ovens hot. While the Doyle/Dunn family doesn’t plan on adding any more locations to the business, Paula does mention, “This day and age, people want things

delivered to them, they don’t want to have to go and get it. So, we are going to try and expand on that delivery system. Yes, DoorDash does it for us, but we want to deliver ourselves. We are also trying to market to corporate businesses with bigger orders.” Paula says all of this is possible now, because her husband Mark is retiring in December. Mark is already a part of the team as the “Icing Maker Extraordinaire”; however, with his retirement, and the addition of another oven, he will be able to assist in the larger orders and a delivery system the bakery wants to implement. The bakery is hoping to show they are a working part of Bartow’s business community by being seen at many local events. They most recently participated in the Women’s Expo at the Clarence Brown Center.

BELOW Tamara Osborne




You will also be able to find them at May Market at Roselawn this year. They will be selling cupcakes, iced cookies, dessert balls and taking orders. The bakery also had some significant success selling cookie kits around the Christmas holiday. Last year they sold around 300 kits that provided all the tools and cookies needed to create unique holiday creations at home. Running a cupcake bakery can be hectic, but these cupcake divas and their team make it work seamlessly. Cartersville wouldn’t be Cartersville without Heaven Scent’s logo as a staple behind the railroad tracks. So, if you’re like us and really want a cupcake now that you have read all about them, pop over to Heaven Scent Cupcakes, enjoy the sugar-high and meet a family dedicated to keeping their community southern and sweet.

BELOW Paula Doyle




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IN CALL Terri Cox, Program Director for Bartow County’s beloved Grand Theatre, is closing the curtain on her 20 year career organizing educational opportunities through the performing arts. TEXT ASHLEE BAGNELL PHOTOS JASON HUYNH


f anyone has spent any significant amount of time in Cartersville, Ga. they are bound to notice something unusual about this community. The arts community is very active in Bartow. The theater community is large and also very active, and there are at least four dance studios open to those who wish to learn the tango. This doesn’t include the arts programs in the middle and high schools. One of the staples in the arts community is the Grand Theatre where many of these programs come together on one stage. The theatre is located in the heart of Downtown Cartersville. Now a landmark, it is difficult to miss and like a second home to many who have worked and performed there. For the last 20 years, this theatre has been a home to the wonderful artist and educator, Terri Cox. Cox works as the Program Director and the head of the education program. In March of this year, Terri Cox will retire and pass the torch. While the people of the Grand are sad to see her go, there are two decades of remarkable achievements to reflect on and a legacy to live up to.

She began her career as a teacher at Cloverleaf Elementary for ten years. When she transitioned into her position at the Grand Theatre, Cox says that she created the position for herself. “The Grand was managed by the Etowah Foundation and they were in charge of the Bartow History Center, what used to be the TRC science center and the Weinman Mineral Museum which later became the Tellus Museum,” Cox says. “They would have educational programs for the schools to participate in. They also managed the Grand Theatre and they didn’t really have an educational component like the other entities did. So, they decided that they wanted to develop a program [at the Grand].” When she learned of the opportunity from the program director at the time, the late Don Kordecki, Cox realized that she wanted to return to her creative roots and utilize her degree in music education. When the program proved to be different than she imagined, she was given the opportunity to pitch her ideas to the Board at the Etowah Foundation. Cox was successful, and the Community in Bartow has benefited from her influence ever since. READ V3.COM | APRIL 2019



While there is no routine or set schedule for her, she says days are full of planning and executing arts-centered educational experiences for the children in the community. “We work with the Bartow History Museum,” explains Cox. “We have field trip programs and students come from elementary school classrooms to visit us. They spend an hour at the Bartow History Museum and an hour at the Grand. We will take something from the curriculum, and we teach it to the students using drama, music, dancing, instruments, all of the performing arts. We hope that that will meet the needs of many different learning styles of many different children.” The children who witness this program will never forget their experience at the theatre because it is unique, and they interact with the people in their history books. The program that Cox has created is designed so that each child will get to ask the actors something about their historical character. Cox loves sharing the experience with the students and allowing them to be a star in the theatre for a day. But running this program is not all that Cox has accomplished in her 20 years at the Grand. Since she started in 1999, she has also been directing the Summer Theatre Camps. The theatre camp followed the Cartersville Opera Company when the need arose for an outlet in the performing arts for younger people. The camp became so popular that it split into a junior and senior level 30



“ I can see that it is time for a younger person to get involved who is better with the social media, technology and all of the changes that come with progress. Because of that, I really want someone to take us to the next level and into the future.” and then when Cox took the lead, they split into three groups: Elementary, Middle, and High school camps. Cox picks the shows and acts a manager for the camps. The stage directors, musical directors and choreographers are hired and the Grand’s technical director, Stevie Roushdi and her staff handle all the lights, sets and effects. The highly-anticipated camp lasts two weeks and is an excellent challenge for the young artists in the area. With all the hard work that Terri Cox has put in over the years, retirement is well deserved. She wants more time for herself, but she also says that many of the programs and the people keep her wanting to do more. “Working with these young directors,” she smiles, “like Kimberly Human and Kristy Montgomery, I can see that it is time for a younger person to get involved who is better with the social media, technology and all of the changes that come with progress. Because of that, I really want someone to take us to the next level and into the future.” She plans to travel with her husband, Chip Cox, and become more involved with her church and the programs that she was missing due to work. She has always loved to sing in her church choir and can’t wait

to be more involved in the ministry. Cox announced that she is also working to publish a book. The book is titled “How to Drive Like a Christian.” She classifies the book as Christian humor and explores issues that people have while driving and making parallels to “the road of life.” In other exciting news, she plans to celebrate 37 years with her husband on May 1, 2019. Her daughter Megan recently got married and her son Josh, a two-time cancer survivor, is totally in remission and living his life. She is definitely looking forward to spending more time with them all. While Cox is retiring, the Grand is not. The theater has a very interesting history. Cox shares that the building was built in 1910. It was a hotel that was converted into a Vaudeville Theatre and then to a motion picture theatre. However, in 1923 the whole block of buildings burned. They rebuilt the theater the same year and it was operational by 1924. It was a movie theater until 1977 when it was renovated to become a stage theater once again. In 1988 the theater was purchased by the foundation that owns it today and it was once again renovated. In 2003, they had to refinish the floors

and found trenches underneath the building. Cox explained that they put a time capsule in one of the trenches before replacing the floor for the next renovators to find. They also added the concession area and the Encore Room during the recent work to the building. Now, Terri Cox will be added to the history of the Grand Theatre and her legacy will live on through the evidence in her programs and in the many children she influenced. It is the end of a class act but never the show. Play on!









Volunteer medical professionals with the Free Clinic of Rome celebrate helping the uninsured cope with sudden illness for the past 15 years. TEXT MCKENZIE TODD PHOTOS CAMERON FLAISCH





waking up one morning and feeling as if your heart is beating out of your chest. You sit on the side of the bed, but your legs are too shaky to stand. If you were to stand you would probably fall. A visit to the Emergency Room would give you the help you so desperately need, but you hesitate because you don’t have insurance. An expensive visit to the ER can put a dent in the household budget. Even the cost of a copay would mean one less bag of groceries for you and your family. Money is short, insurance is incredibly expensive, and you are extremely sick. You come to the conclusion that you just can’t go to the doctor. This is the reality of over 18 percent of Romans and residents of surrounding counties. They are dealing with the dilemma of having no insurance. The volunteers at the Free Clinic of Rome (101B John Maddox Drive Rome, Ga.) witness these situations daily and have for the past 15 years. “Our mission statement here at the Free Clinic is to provide quality primary healthcare to uninsured, low income residents in Rome and its surrounding counties. We try to live by that mantra every second our doors are open,” says Renee Blackburn, Executive Director of the Free Clinic of Rome. Blackburn and the Free Clinic’s volunteer professionals commit their life’s work to making sure that the 18 percent of uninsured people in our community have access to basic healthcare needs. RIGHT Bill Carrol and Joseph Chavez




The Free Clinic of Rome was first organized back in 2003, when four local churches and their community kitchens got together and discussed how they could help provide people without insurance access to medical care here in Rome. Food and shelter weren’t the only dire needs many of their guests required, but access to healthcare, too. With a mission in mind, local physicians and healthcare providers started seeing patients in a closetsized clinic at the Salvation Army once a month. They continued to see patients in that same closet for the next several years. “The first clinic was literally stuffed in a closet in the Salvation Army headquarters,” recalls Blackburn. “As the clinic began to grow, the Free Clinic of Rome was officially formed.” The Free Clinic's newest board member, Joseph Chavez also remembers the early years of the clinic. “When I first started volunteering here, I remember hearing stories about how our first clinic was kept in a supply closet at the Salvation Army. Everything was taken out of storage and set up for the clinic, then stuffed back in again until the next month. We have definitely come a long way,” smiles Chavez. In 2006, the Free Clinic of Rome became a corporation and in 2007, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit company. The year of 2018 was the Free Clinic of Rome’s fifteenth anniversary. Having served as executive director for two and a half years, Blackburn truly feels as if she has found her calling.

“The first clinic was literally stuffed in a closet in the Salvation Army headquarters. As the clinic began to grow, the Free Clinic of Rome was officially formed.” “My grandparents raised my mother here in Rome, I was raised here and I am raising my children here. This is my community,” says Blackburn. “There comes a time in your career when you think to yourself, what is more important? Community is extremely important to me. When I was a nurse, I decided that putting a dime in someone’s pocket was not how I wanted to serve my community. I wanted to do something that is more of a mission and a ministry for the people of my community. That is my passion, and this is how I want to impact my community.” Currently, the Free Clinic of Rome’s patient base is around 400 uninsured patients and growing. “Thanks to grants and support from local donors, we are planning on expanding by one third this year, which constitutes to us adding around 140 new patients,” smiles Blackburn.

Redmond Regional Medical Center, Floyd Medical Center and Harbin Clinic have always supported the Free Clinic in numerous ways. Residents from both programs volunteer to see patients at the clinic, as well as run lab work for Free Clinic patients. While the number of patients served keeps growing, board members are well aware that the needs far outweigh the capabilities of the small clinic. However, they are determined to keep pressing forward, with the help of their community. “This community keeps us upright and has done enough to keep us alive and kicking this long, which is great,” says Blackburn. As expected, a lot of people assume that the Free Clinic of Rome solely serves the homeless. It is true that their mission and the founding of the Free Clinic came from a heart for the homeless and for serving those who are in dire need of medical care. “What we see a lot of times now- and we do still see a good many homeless- is a lot of people in fast food uniforms, people who just took off their big box apron or uniforms, and people who can’t afford the insurance their employers offer to them,” explains Blackburn. “We see those that are self-employed with seasonal jobs that ebb and flow, and they cannot sustain the high insurance premiums of medication costs. Those are our patients.” One of the things staff and volunteers of the Free Clinic stress is the fact that they do not receive any state or federal tax dollars to help aid their practice. “The Free Clinic is not a ‘free’ program from the government,” stresses Blackburn. “It is a mission founded by the neighbors that live, work and worship in the same community as the patients served. Our donors and volunteers care for our patients because we are all part of the same community. Just because you see your neighbor leave for work every day, doesn’t mean they are going to a job that provides them with insurance.” “The Free Clinic was founded because volunteers knew there was a need. Our success story continues because of local churches, businesses and individual supporters commitment to assuring our doors stay open and our patients receive the care, medication and education they need,” says Blackburn. Along with Blackburn, who is a registered nurse, the Free Clinic of Rome consists of physician volunteers, residents who are going through their fellowship at our local hospitals, medical students and college volunteers. They also staff several very talented organizational administrative office volunteers. “One of the things I like to tell people about our clinic is that it is amazing how well-orchestrated we are, as far as filling a lot of needs,” says Blackburn. “The mission was to help those in need of healthcare, but the truth is we have found out there are many more benefits to it. One of those benefits happens to be the education of our college students.

“We have volunteers who are in nursing school or are pre-med students who have never put a stethoscope to a patient’s chest or used a blood pressure cuff while taking vital signs, etc. When you are in school for medicine and you haven’t had any hands-on experience, that is a lot of time and commitment to put into a degree and realize this isn’t what you really want to do,” explains Blackburn. “We are helping a lot of folks with hands on and shadowing experience.” Chavez is currently studying to enter the Physician’s Assistant program and happened to run across a former volunteer who introduced him to Blackburn and the clinic. “I was essentially just looking for volunteer experience, but I found so much more than that,” says Chavez. What he found was a family unit full of people who care more about their patients than they do themselves, which is what led him to becoming an Executive Committee Member for the Free Clinic of Rome. “We still have board members who were founders of the Clinic back in 2003. It truly takes them all and we are s grateful for all they do” says Blackburn. So, how would an uninsured patient apply to the Free Clinic of Rome, you may ask? “When someone comes in to be a new patient, there will be a few questions we ask. We will ask, if you are insured. Next, we will ask if you live in Rome or a surrounding county. The last thing we need to know is a future patient’s financial ability,” explains Blackburn. “We serve those who are 200 percent or below poverty levels,” she continues. “We do this because when it comes to providing medicines, it is important to make sure our patients can get what they need.” “It doesn’t do any good for our doctors to see a patient and prescribe them a medicine that they cannot afford. We keep our levels at 200 percent or below because we have the ability to enroll our patients in Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (PAP), where the majority of the programs have that same line in order to qualify,” says Blackburn. The Free Clinic also utilizes local retailers like Wal-Mart and Publix who have medications that may be provided at little to no cost. The clinic also writes grants to help cover medication costs, as well as receives donations from local physicians and hospitals. “Here in Rome, we are considered a medically saturated community where we are fortunate enough to pick and choose which healthcare facility we want to attend in times of need, if you have insurance. If you are uninsured, then you still are an important part of this community and deserve quality healthcare. We help those people because they deserve the strength of our medical community,” says Blackburn. One example of the Free Clinic’s workings was portrayed in a very unfortunate, but true story.

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“We recently had a patient come in with several things bothering her; however, one of the main things she complained about was a toothache. We sent her to our dental clinic where they were prepared to do an extraction. Before they began, the students took an X-ray and when the volunteer dentist took a look at it, he knew instantly there was nothing he could do about it,” says Blackburn. There was a huge lesion on the tooth, and without being able to diagnose it, the volunteers at the clinic were unsure if it was cancerous or not. “Once that happened, we had a sit down with her and let her know about her options. She would need more help than we could give her; I remember her leaving the clinic in tears,” recalls Blackburn as she fights back tears while telling the story. “At 9 a.m. the next morning, I met with a physician and within 72 hours, we were able to reach out to the community and our resources here, and have her admitted through an ER to the hospital for a full work-up. We needed to see what is going on. “It was one of those things where, you think you are just doing a good deed by doing a simple tooth extraction. But instead, you end up saving someone’s life. And she came to the right place for the right resources to fall in place for her,” says Blackburn. In addition to their increase of new patients, the Free Clinic of Rome now offers a once-a-month dental clinic to its patients. Bill Carroll, past Free Clinic Board President, has been an integral part in this process. By working to partner with Georgia Highlands College’s Dental Hygiene Program, the students see patients in Heritage Hall’s campus lab, take X-rays and assist local dentists who all volunteer at the clinic. The clinic was awarded a grant through the Community Foundation of Greater Rome which allowed them to open their dental clinic on January 31st of 2019. “The addition of the dental clinic is just one more way you see the community supporting the Free Clinic and its mission. We couldn’t be more grateful for everyone’s support,” smiles Blackburn. The Free Clinic of Rome’s patients, volunteers and staff always appreciate generous donations, great or small. While monetary donations are essential for daily operations, donations such as paper products, office supplies and cleaning supplies are used on a daily basis and are always needed. “We have the ability to take one donated dollar and turn it into ten dollars’ worth of healthcare services because of the volunteers we have and the services they provide,” says Blackburn. “In 2017, expenses that came out of our bank account totaled to around $107,000. But, we were able to provide over one-million dollars’ worth of healthcare to our patients,” says Blackburn, which completely sums up the consumption and necessity of the Free Clinic of Rome.




The Free Clinic board members wish to convey how thankful they are for the kindness and support that is regularly shown for the clinic. Collectively, they wish to convey their sentiments regarding donors’ role in supporting the Free Clinic. “This is a mission that fills our hearts with joy, and we wish health, happiness and prosperity to both those that support us and those we serve,” says the Free Clinic. Providing opportunities to people in our community who get sick, lack insurance and have no money to pay for expensive medical procedures is a cause worth pursuing. Through the hard work and many hours spent treating those without insurance, we are lucky to have an organization who believes that everyone deserves access to healthcare. HOURS: The Free Clinic of Rome is open on Mondays from 8:30 AM until 12:30 PM for lab-work only, and then from 4:30 PM until the last patient is seen; Tuesdays from 8:30 AM-12:30 PM; Thursdays from 8:30 AM-12:30 PM and then from 4:30 PM until the last patient is seen.

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Cabin Fever

With 420 acres of streams, hiking trails and dense woods to explore, this property is a must see for owners wishing to disconnect from the mainstream and reconnect with nature. text ELIZABETH BLOUNT photos KEITH BEAUCHAMP additional photos by CAMERON FLAISCH


estled in the mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest, just off of Big Texas Valley Road, lies 420 acres of beauty with an entrance that is easy to miss if you are relying on GPS. The property is called Many Streams Ranch, aptly named for the myriad of streams and trails that wind across its acreage, and for the fact that travelers from all over the world have left unified by their sense of enjoyment of this special place. Boasting four authentic log cabins with a total of 11 bedrooms and nine bathrooms, Many Streams Ranch is the perfect location for lovers of nature and luxury alike, and offers visitors a unique blend of comfort, inspiration and privacy. The property’s owners, Laura and Dr. Matt Mumber, purchased the raw land in 1999 and have been building the ranch ever since. “When we purchased the place, we were looking for somewhere to get away and enjoy nature, and this has far exceeded our expectations,” Mumber says. The expectations of even a first time visitor will be exceeded as soon as they drive up the path to the main cabin, called the Bear Cabin. From there, they can soak up the stunning views from the front porch, looking out onto miles of untouched forest and mountain ridges. A careful eye will even be able to spot the tower of the House of Dreams on the Berry College campus, giving the view a feeling of both vastness and familiarity. Nearly every bit of land visible from the porch’s overlook is either national forest or a state park, giving potential buyers a rare assurance that the land surrounding their property will never be developed. Additionally, these types of surroundings ensure that the ranch sees little to no light pollution, making it an ideal location for stargazing and searching the heavens for the Milky Way.



Aside from the immediate beauty of both the land and the view, visitors will also notice the peaceful silence that envelops the property. “The silence up here has a certain quality; everything about the natural world up here is really restful,” says Mumber. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Many Streams Ranch is the story behind the Bear Cabin. Originally an American Legion Lodge located in Camp Hill, Penn., and crafted out of American chestnut logs, the structure was deconstructed and transported to Rome in 2001 in order to be rebuilt on the property. Then, the logs waited for several months before being reconstructed at the ranch. Mumber recalls the moment that he realized it was time to put the cabin together again when a friend accidentally placed a piece of the cabin’s wood into a campfire. “We pulled it out of the fire quickly and now you can see it in the wall just behind the TV,” he laughs. The first cabin built on the property, now called the Moose Cabin, began as a hand hewn 16x16 room that was originally intended to be a simple painting studio for Mumber. However, he describes his wife’s reaction upon first seeing the cabin. “Where’s the kitchen?” Laura asked. “Well, there isn’t one,” Dr. Mumber explained. “What about a bathroom?” said the lady of the ranch as she pushed her vision further. “No, no bathroom,” Mumber again replied. “Or air conditioning?” she asked, increasingly irritated at her husband’s responses. “No air conditioning either,” as he sensed his bride’s dismay with his building plans. “Well, do you ever want me to come up here?” she asked as a gentle nudge for her husband to give to her will. To that end, Mumber credits his wife with adding most of the elements like state of the art kitchens and handcrafted furnishings in the bathrooms that make the spaces comfortable and add an element of luxury, akin to “glamping.” “Even though it is in the middle of nature, it’s got all of the high-end features you could possibly want. My wife made sure that when you come up here, you’re going to be very comfortable. It’s not camping; the structures look rustic, but they’re very solid. And if you want some luxurious time in a beautifully tiled shower to feel like you’re in a four-star hotel, you can do that.” For example, the fire pit area, it’s very comfortable,” Mumber continues. “Once you get on the deck there are no bugs and there’s no mud, so it is nature in an accessible framework. If


you want to go off-book and go into the woods, there are all kinds of trails. So, this property offers the entire spectrum from a very private, beautiful and natural setting that you can go out and explore if you’re into camping and hunting, or the more spa like atmosphere. The property also suits those who want to come up here and watch the sunrise or the sunset, but don’t want to get dirty.” While Mumber may not take credit for some of the more glamorous additions to the property, his own passion for the ranch and attention to detail are evident, from the careful building of each of the property’s cabins, down to how he pauses midsentence to replant a sprig of rosemary in the garden. He and his wife have never lived on the property full time, but they have continually made additions and improvements to it, “whatever fits and makes it more enjoyable for the people who come here,” he says. In addition to the Bear Cabin that serves as the heart of the property and the Moose Cabin, the property is also home to two other cabins that feature bedrooms, meeting spaces and even a yoga room. These are called the Deer Cabins, namely for the herds of deer that can be seen hanging around on a regular basis. In the past the ranch has typically functioned as a retreat center, although the opportunities that the space provides are nearly limitless. “We wanted to build it like a retreat center because it’s such a beautiful place, and there have been thousands of people who have been here to enjoy it since we were fortunate enough to purchase it.” Mumber says. “There have been numerous retreats for a variety of different groups: schools, churches, cancer patients, physicians, family reunions, pretty much any type of group that you can think of.” In addition to the four cabins with ample room for guests of any sort, Many Streams Ranch also features an in-ground gunite salt water pool with stunning lake and mountain views, and a small pond formed from one of the property’s many streams, that could easily be enlarged into a lake. The ranch also offers a sport court perfect for basketball, tennis or volleyball, a custom built propane grill, seasonal fruit trees and even an intriguing labyrinth built to appease the wanderer’s soul. The possible ways to enjoy Many Streams Ranch are facilitated by the sheer beauty that surrounds it. “Where are you going to find mountains, streams, 600 acres of managed lakes, privacy, inspiration and comfort?” asks

Mumber. “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world, and there aren’t a lot of places like this. It’s a very unique and special place.” For additional information about the property or to schedule a showing, please contact Hardy Realty at 706-291-4321.



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Awaiting Justice



V3’s Lauren Jones-Hillman pulls back the curtain and reveals that bringing sexual predators to justice starts with law enforcement’s ability to process the evidence. TEXT LAUREN JONES-HILLMAN PHOTOS CAMERON FLAISCH

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains details of rape and sexual assault that may be upsetting. For anyone in the NWGA region who is struggling with rape, sexual assault, abuse and its associated effects (PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc.) please reach out to the Sexual Assault Center of NWGA (www.sacnwga.org) or find your nearest crisis center (https://centers.rainn.org/). *Name has been changed for protection.




BREAKING DOWN THE BACKLOG: AN INSIDE LOOK AT RAPE AND REPORTING Faith* pulled up to the police department and sat in her car. Her mind was reeling from the events of the past 14 hours. Flashes of memories battered against the edges of her mind. His smell. The sounds he made. The pain she felt at the tender points of her body. She was still wearing the torn dress, the shoes. The blood-stained underwear. “I was slowly unravelling,” Faith recalls. “I just couldn’t really grip my reality. I was starting to have symptoms of PTSD and I wasn’t processing it. It’s poison to feel like that.” Hands shaking, she got out her phone. She looked up and called the number for the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The person on the other end of the line looked up Faith’s nearest crisis center. Within minutes, she was talking on the phone with an advocate at the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia. Faith had been raped, and what’s more, her rapist had been her closest friend. This is not at all unusual. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that eight out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Also, 39 percent of reported rapes are by an acquaintance and 33 percent are by a current or former spouse or partner. Faith had said no, but it made no difference and she couldn’t fight him off. She described her rapist’s behavior during the crime. “The whole time he raped me, he didn’t speak,” she says. “This was someone I knew really well, and he raped me for almost an hour and didn’t speak, not a word.” The time that ticked by afterward was nightmarish. Faith didn’t know what to do. If she tried to leave, she was afraid he would attack her again. In the end, she curled up to make herself as small as possible. She breathed into silence and tried to disappear. Her body was throbbing and heavy. Her mind completely shut down. She woke up a few hours later. “I went into the bathroom and it was almost like a bad dream,” she says. “I peed and I wiped and there was all this blood. That’s when the reality of it started to hit me.” Since she had been dropped off the day before by another friend, her rapist - who had been, until the night before, the person she was closest to in the world - drove her home. 48



Faith’s psyche tried to process the events of the night. Still in the clothes she was raped in, she reached out to a friend who said that she too had been raped, and by the same person. But that friend told Faith reporting it wouldn’t do any good. Then, Faith went to her rapist’s workplace to confront him. “I know that sounds crazy, but he had been my best friend. We stood in the parking lot. I said ‘You know this morning when I asked you if you realized I didn’t want to sleep with you last night?’ And he said ‘Yeah, I just thought you meant that you didn’t want to sleep (in the same bed together) and we didn’t.’” Hours later, she parked at the Rome City and Floyd County Police Departments and reached out to the crisis hotline. Then Kim Davis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center, met Faith at the SAC door. “She offered me the restroom and she walked me through what was going to happen,” says Faith. “They had a detective on the way and she told me they were going to ask me some really hard questions, but just be honest and don’t be afraid because (she and the advocates) were there. They supported me and they believed me.”

This Is Your Brain on Rape If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic event - a car wreck, for example - you’ll know there are some details you can recall clear as day while others remain fuzzy. That’s because our brains are hardwired to protect us. During a traumatic event, your hippocampus (the part of the brain that houses memories, emotions and your ability to move your body) becomes triggered by stress hormones and overloaded with information. The hippocampus is also responsible for consolidating short-term memories into longterm memories and records spatial memory, or the information about the environment where the trauma occurred. “During an assault, the hippocampus becomes overactive and can’t make those connections, so it’s hard to remember details afterward,” explains Alice Williams, a licensed professional counselor based in Rome, Ga. who works with trauma victims. This is why victims of rape can’t remember precisely how the event played out, even if they were stone-cold sober when the assault occurred. The anatomy of our brains is to blame. In the 2018 case of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of assault in



the midst of his Supreme Court confirmation process, this is what likely occurred, says Williams. Ford was accused of lying when she couldn’t recall details of the alleged assault that happened three decades before. “They don’t remember and a lot of people start victim-blaming. Like, oh if it happened to them, why can’t they remember it?” says Williams. “But that’s the brain’s way of protecting them. It’s our built-in defense mechanism. It would be too devastating to remember everything.” In addition to the hippocampus glitching on recording memories, Williams explains that the body can completely shut down. “It’s the fight or flight response in your brain,” she says. “When someone is assaulted, the amygdala goes into overdrive and the response is more often flight. You transition into a numb state of shock and can literally lose movement. Your body won’t function,” she says. After a car wreck, do you freeze? Cry? Get angry? Employ your dark sense of humor to lighten the tension? Everyone handles trauma differently, because everyone has a unique personality. Williams says how you personally handle shock dictates how you act afterward. “When I worked rape cases as a victim’s advocate, sometimes victims would go into distraught mode,” explains Williams. “Others would talk normally; they’d even laugh. They’d crack jokes. Detectives who hadn’t been through a lot of trauma and assault training would say ‘Well, I don’t believe they were really raped.’ And I’d say ‘That’s just how they’re handling it right now.’”

Faith says she experienced judgement from the officers who responded to the SAC while she was telling them what happened to her. They were skeptical of the fact she didn’t immediately try to leave the scene of her rape. “I was in a part of town that I didn’t feel safe in, my clothes were ripped,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave where I was. I didn’t want to alarm the person who had attacked me.” For her, the term “sexual assault” was easier to digest at first. Even after admitting that it was rape, it would take her time to come to terms with the word itself. “The detectives repeatedly asked me if I had been raped and I kept saying no,” she says. “And then he said, ‘Well, you’re telling me that he penetrated you without consent. You have bruises all over you… did he rape you?’ It took about three times of him asking me for me to really say it out loud. ‘Yes. He raped me.’” If Faith simply went on about her business and pretended the rape hadn’t happened, she wouldn’t have to change anything, she says. “To accept ‘rape’ meant that my life was going to be radically different,” she continues. “I had to heal from something. It meant that I had to deal with it.” Faith developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She lived in fear and sometimes when she looked at other men - even her friends - she would see the image of her rapist. She also had Dissociative Identity Disorder, the mind’s way of seeing oneself

from a different perspective, so as to take her out of her body in order to cope. “I would be doing the dishes and suddenly I would feel like I was above looking down on my body,” says Faith. “I was trying to function like a normal person, but I wasn’t. I was inside myself someplace screaming and writhing.” Faith found the strength to speak out, and talking about her rape became a way to draw the poison out. But she ended up isolating herself more and even lost her job. “I had to talk about it, but it pushed people away. I lost 99 percent of my friends and the ones who stuck around eventually got sick of it. I was in so much pain.”

You are 2,107th in the Queue The Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia serves Floyd, Chattooga, Gordon, Polk and Bartow Counties. In addition to the 24-hour crisis line, the

Coosa Valley Home Health Care, an Amedisys company, is in the business of helping our patients maintain and improve their quality of life-at home. Home is the place where family, friends and familiar surroundings make patients feel most comfortable - and recover faster. center assists victims with on-site medical exams, counseling and criminal justice advocacy. While she was at the SAC, advocates and trained medical staff collected forensic evidence of Faith’s rape. “They took pictures of my body, and did an internal exam. Your kit also includes your testimony and DNA samples from the swabs,” Faith explains. Faith had bruises on her body because she had been chased and beaten during her rape. That evidence also makes it into the rape kit. “The examiners circled each one of the bruises and they numbered each one with a marker and took pictures of that, too,” she says. Because of the brutal nature of assaults, the exams themselves are invasive and exhausting. But rape kit exams are necessary to collect hard-and-fast DNA evidence to send to a crime lab in the event the case makes it to trial. Therein lies an enormous issue: the rape kit backlog. In January 2017, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that 10,314 kits were backlogged and waiting to be tested at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. When this information was brought to light, Georgia developed a statewide initiative to test the kits. In April 2018, the Associated Press reported that under 2,900 kits remained of the backlogged ones. But keep in mind, that’s in addition to an average of 300 new kits the lab receives each month, according to the GBI. Georgia’s law does not require law enforcement agencies to track rape kits. However, according to endthebacklog.org, a statewide tracking system is being developed. The road to holding the criminal justice system accountable for rape cases in Georgia has been a long

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and harrowing one, says Davis, and the journey isn’t close to being over. “The kit goes to the GBI. They process it based on when it’s delivered and the nature of the crime,” says Davis. But depending on what year the assault occurred, the kit could have never made it to the crime lab at all. In the past, law enforcement officials got to decide whether a victim’s rape or assault would receive a forensic exam in the first place. Money was a big factor because law enforcement agencies paid for the kit assets, explains Davis. “Before, nine times out of 10, you’d have a victim in the ER and if law enforcement didn’t believe them, they didn’t get an exam,” Davis continues. “There wasn’t anything we could do about it. We couldn’t afford to do the exams because we didn’t have enough money to pay for the equipment.” Rape kits are expensive. It costs crisis centers or law enforcement agencies upwards of $1,000 for rape kit materials, not including medication to help prevent STDs or pregnancies from rape. Now, crisis centers 52



such as the SAC can bill Georgia’s Crime Victim’s Compensation for much of the cost. It also costs between $1,000 and $1,500 for crime labs to test the kits, and that money comes from state funds. So full servicing of one rape kit can amount to $2,500 or more. In 2011, Georgia’s law changed so that anyone who claimed to have been assaulted had the right to a rape kit exam. But though an exam was done, if the victim didn’t officially report the crime, there was no rhyme or reason as to whether the kit would be sent to the GBI, says Davis. “If a client didn’t report the rape, we’d keep it for a year,” says Davis. “At the end of the year, we would usually destroy it. If law enforcement did not believe her, and did not want to move forward with the case, then the kit either sat in our fridge or it would sit in their evidence room forever and it never went to get tested.” But in 2016, Georgia passed a law stating that all kits are required be taken to the crime lab. From the moment the kit is completed, law enforcement

has 96 hours to retrieve it. Then they have 30 days to send it to the GBI. “They’re not supposed to have a choice at this point. I can’t promise you they’re sending them to the GBI in every case because I have a refrigerator full of evidence and it’s not just non-reports. I also have a shelving unit that’s full of rape kits,” says Davis, adding that some of the kits date back to 2017. “If everyone was picking up their kits and processing them the way they’re supposed to be, I would not have all these kits in here because over a hundred victims didn’t just walk in,” says Davis. “This evidence should not be here.” Part II of the Breaking Down the Backlog series unpacks issues the criminal justice system faces in prosecuting crimes of sexual assault. It also examines the problems the GBI faces regarding the amount of untested kits. Part II is available at ReadV3.com.

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