Sexual assault responders trained

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The Moffat County Sexual Assault Response Team again recruited Alaska's best to train local enforcement officers, medical personnel and victim services staff on sexual assault investigations.

Tara Henry, a nationally recognized forensic nurse and assault trainer, taught a 40-hour class this week at Moffat County Public Safety Center. This is her third training session in Craig.

Each time, Moffat County's response team has impressed her.

"They care about having a quality response to sexual assault victims," Henry said.

Henry's class covers topics such as establishing and maintaining a response team, collecting forensic evidence, victims' and responders' psychological responses to assaults, and information on who sex offenders are and how to interview them.

"She just goes over sexual assault exams from start to finish," said Craig forensic examiner Jona Ely, who took the class for the second time.

Ely was one of 20 students in the class. Henry also taught an evening class on strangulation.

Ely said learning from Henry is a "treat."

"People don't have any idea what we have in her," Ely said.

Henry's work in Alaska is nationally known. She travels throughout Alaska and the country instructing classes and is an expert witness on many sexual assault-related topics. In 2005, Henry was instrumental in making strangulation and suffocation assaults a felony in Alaska.

"In all my years of doing this, I can easily say Tara's one of the best strangulation and sexual assault investigators," said Bill Leonard, administrative sergeant for the Craig Police Department. "She's definitely worth the time and effort (to take the class)."

Leonard said he felt lucky to have Henry come to Craig for training. He said Henry trained the response team at little or no cost in past years because her sister, Debi Harmon, used to live here.

This year, Advocates -- Crisis Support Services used part of its $25,000 Violence Against Women Act grant money to fund Henry's class and travel expenses.

Ely said there's a need for preparedness here. There were 50 sexual assaults reported in 2006 in Moffat County, and one in three women nationwide will be a sexual-assault victim at some point in her life, Ely said.

"It's a huge issue, and people don't even recognize it as a public health issue," Ely said.

Leonard said the local response team does, however.

"This type of training is going to enhance (our preparedness) even more," Leonard said. "It's just a type of crime that if you have any, it's too many."

The Moffat County Sexual Assault Response Team seeks qualified doctors, nurses and physician assistants licensed in Colorado to train as forensic examiners. For more information, call Leonard at 826-2366 or Ely at 629-5981.

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