SART keeps space
Sexual assault victims can use confidential examination rooms
By the numbers
Sexual Assaults in Moffat County
January through June:
2009 reports: 28 (20 victims younger than 18)
2008 reports: 20
The Sexual Assault Response Team will continue to offer support to local sexual assault victims using space donated by The Memorial Hospital.
In February, SART was prepared to move out of the space in the TMH MRI Center. However, TMH Board members and SART reached an agreement, which allowed the team to stay and use the space for confidential exam rooms.
“The hospital ended up coming through and allowing us to keep the space,” said Carolyn Miller, domestic violence resource officer with the Craig Police Department. “It’s anonymous and safe and equipped like an exam room.”
Miller said other medical staff at TMH can use the room, but SART has access to provide services to a victim of sexual assault.
SART includes Advocates-Crisis Support Services, members of the Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and several nurse practitioners.
Since the beginning of the year, 28 people have reported being sexually assaulted in Moffat County.
Last year at this time, there were 20 reports of sexual assault.
Karen Aragon, Advocates interim executive director, said the statistics could be a reflection of an increased willingness to report sexual crimes.
“My hope is that people are less afraid to report it, because they realize there is a support team here,” she said. “We can’t make things as easy as possible, because it’s never easy to go through something like that. But we do the best we can not to make it worse.”
The program is designed to make the process of reporting a sexual crime as comfortable to the victim as possible by preventing him or her from having to repeat their story to several different agencies.
A victim of sexual assault can be brought to a secure exam room, which conducts medical tests in a confidential environment, away from busy emergency rooms and prying eyes.
“The only way their name will get out is in the court system,” Miller said. “This way, people won’t see them in the emergency room or see their injuries. We don’t want victims to come under any more stress.”
A large majority will continue to be cared for with ongoing support groups and medical care.
SART has been around for four years but has had access to its own medical facility for the past two.
Education is the key
Aragon said she was surprised at the number of sexual assaults involving minors.
“A lot of those are under the age of 15,” she said. “Those can often indicate incest or abuse by someone in a position of trust. But honestly, when we started SART, we got a lot more reports than we anticipated. I choose to look at it as a hope. Maybe people are feeling more comfortable in reporting it.”
In the past six months, six people between 15 and 18 reported being sexually assaulted.
In addition, Aragon said she had several high school students come up to her and tell her they had friends who think they might have been assaulted but weren’t sure.
“These kids were more afraid to tell their parents they were at a party drinking than report a sexual assault,” she said. “I think education is the key. When I had kids tell me these stories, I was really surprised.”
Miller agreed, and added the Police Department hopes to institute a sexual assault program in the high school.
“The highest percentage of sexual assaults for women happens freshmen year of college,” Miller said. “We want to educate them before they get there. These assaults are generally not a stranger jumping out from the shadows. These are normally boyfriends, friends or acquaintances. There just seems to be this general trend in young people’s attitudes that they don’t know where the lines are.”
When a sexual assault does occur, however, there’s no going back in time and educating victims and perpetrators. After the fact, it is SART that steps in to be a confidential and safe resource for victims.
“Each report we get is just another victim we can help,” Miller said.
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, and email@example.com.
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