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Local organizations focus on advocacy

BY Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@perutribune.com

Miami County has started searching for ways to provide victims of sexual assault and domestic violence with resources provided by the Family Services Association.

In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring all counties to have a Sexual Assault Response Team. According to Sexual Assault Victims Advocate Heidi Wright, it wasn’t until two years ago that Miami county started working to develop this team.

She states SART is a protocol policy put in place to help ensure a consistent response time to victims of sexual assault through the state of Indiana, regardless of the time and place the crime occurred.

 

SART’s core members include advocates, members of law enforcement, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and prosecutors.

 

“We have to work out each others protocol and coordinate our efforts to be a team,” Wright said. “They have their own guidelines they have to follow that are set out on a national basis, which is why it takes so long. Sometimes it takes a little bit of policy change to become victim centered.”

 

In hopes of helping change the protocol for how victims of abuse are handled, Wright has scheduled several trainings for law enforcement and first responders. This training helps attendees further understand how trauma affects the neurobiology of the brain and how victims don’t always respond as one would expect.

 

“Even if victims do not want to report an assault to the police, we can still help them find supportive services in the community including mental health and medical services as well as legal and financial,” Wright said.

 

Wright said sexual assault is a crime which psychologically and emotionally affects victims, even if no physical injuries have occurred.

 

According to the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault’s website, 1in 5 Hoosier women are victims of rape in their lifetime, and only 15 percent of sexual assaults are being reported, making 85 percent left unreported to legal authorities.

 

Because of these statistics, Wright continues to actively try to develop a better way to address victims of abuse.

 

“It’s not easy to go to the police because it’s always her words against his word,” she said. “It’s very important to look at our misconceptions of sexual assault and what the perfect victim is.”

 

Wright said, statistically speaking, sexual assault victims know who assaulted them.

 

Family and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Katina Everding, who works for Peace of Mind Counseling, has services that are therapy and medication focused for victims of abuse.

 

She suggests that counseling is the first line of defense and everything should be individually based.

 

“Each person is so different; some people blame themselves, so it’s about forgiveness,” she said. “(For) some people, it’s about coping, some people rebuilding self esteem, some it’s about recognizing cycles of abuse.”

 

POM also helps with providing victims of abuse with people and resources they can follow up with. Because each person is individually dealt with, services are different for every person. No referral is required, people can call and make appointments at (765)472-4722.