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Responding to Sexual Assault: Information for Incidental Responders

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SAIC Project Director

on 17 November 2014

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Transcript of Responding to Sexual Assault: Information for Incidental Responders

Things to keep in mind


Victim Compensation

Victim Rights

Support Services

Sexual Assault
What happens after a sexual assault?
An Example:
If you remember one thing today...
Photo credits: 'horizon' by pierreyves @ flickr
Sexual Assault 101
Poverty & Sexual Violence
It was her fault because...

It's not real rape because...

He couldn't of done this because...
Every 2 minutes...
Cost of Sexual Violence
The Connection
(cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr
(cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr
The CSI Effect
Exhibit A:
This coffee splatter will show that without a reasonable doubt, the V was sexually assaulted by John Doe
Information for incidental responders
Sexual Assault
Attempted Rape
On top or underneath clothing
Sexual Activity without consent
Severely intoxicated
Forced Penetration
Oral, Vaginal, Anal
Use of body parts or objects
Rape is about using sex as a weapon to humiliate, degrade, have power and control over others.
Perpetrators don't assault because they "need" to have sex.
Gratification derived from the power of the act
A perpetrator is most often a "non-stranger"
(and not a stranger in the bushes)
Sexual violence is rooted in a larger system of oppression
Identifying marginalized populations as "The Other"
Correlation between income level and risk for sexual violence
A person with a household income of under $7,500 is two times more likely than the general public to be sexual assaulted.
Lifetime risk for violent victimization for homeless individuals with mental illness is 97%
"We are going to test for rape"

"Rape kit came back positive"

Case solved in 60 minutes or less

The victim is pressing charges

You can't collect evidence if you shower

Victims pay($500) for rape kits

911 Communications places sexual assault calls as a high priority for officer response.

Communications Operator assesses safety, ambulance needs, gives instructions not to shower, use restroom, etc. and stays on the line with survivor

Cultural considerations assessed and relayed to responding officer (i.e. translator or ASL interpreter, 911 text).

Officer is dispatched to the victim.
Denver Police Department--Patrol

Patrol Officer determines safety, medical needs & establishes that a crime occurred.

Requests a Sex Crimes Unit supervisor (situational)

Requests Victim Assistance Unit (VAU)

Law enforcement advocate that provides crisis intervention services to victims of crime 24/7.

Completes initial investigation: secures crime scene, interviews victim and witnesses.

Arranges for safe transport of the victim to and from hospital—unless ambulance needed.
Denver Police Department--Victim Assistance Unit

Civilian unit in the Denver Police Department. Provides support, crisis intervention and information for victims of crime and stark misfortune.

VAU Victim Specialists do NOT have confidentiality like a community-based advocate or therapist.

Provides crisis intervention and answers questions about law enforcement procedures and gives referrals to community-based programs for ongoing support.

Follow-up contacts are attempted by phone and by mail, offering additional services and referrals.
Forensic Exams

A SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) is paged to complete the exam

A SANE is a specially trained registered nurse that:
Provides compassionate and comprehensive care
Is able to collect forensic evidence from sexual assault victims and suspects
Ability and knowledge to provide expert witness testimony in court

Preferred within 72 but can be done up to 7 days
Includes DNA swabs, hair samples, photos, etc.
Consent is continual
Q: What if a victim doesn't want to report or is unsure?
A: A person can still be medically treated

Checked/treated for injuries

Preventative treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections and pregnancy

STI treatment for victims provided at no cost at Denver Health

A forensic examination at no cost.

Federal and state law allows forensic evidence to be collected at no cost to the victim while evidence is still viable. It is common for a victim to delay reporting, if reported at all.
Other costs may be incurred (medical visit, pregnancy prevention, ambulance fee, etc.)an receive medical treatment

Support and advocacy services offered from Denver Health Social Work and Rape Assistance and Awareness Program Hospital Advocate

Denver Health required by law to call law enforcement

Law enforcement will respond, and victim will have to give name and location of assault to officer. No further interaction necessary

Law enforcement will store the kit for up to 2 years before destruction.
Provide crisis intervention and emotional support.
RAAP advocates can keep information shared confidential.

Assess the client’s needs and provide appropriate resources and referrals.

Help with safety planning and problem solving.

Assure that protocols are being followed.

Inform client about the availability of RAAP’s follow-up case management and counseling services.
Crisis intervention by trained advocates via a 24-hour crisis hotline

Case management services: emergency food and shelter referrals, criminal justice accompaniment and support and other advocacy and support services as indicated

Individual counseling

Specialized support groups

Expert testimony in sexual assault cases

Educational and Outreach programs: self-empowerment and abuse prevention instruction
Denver Police Department: Sex Crimes Unit

Conducts Investigation

2 Sergeants, 11 Detectives

Interviews the victim, identifies and interviews witnesses, collects & analyzes evidence, interviews suspect, arrests the suspect.
Presents case to the Denver District Attorney's Office
Denver District Attorney’s Office

Sex Assaults cases are currently presented to a deputy and her team, specially trained in sexual violence

If the case is refused for filing, the detective must present to a second intake deputy.
Sexual Assault Specialist

Advises, assists, supports and trains deputy district attorneys with sex assault cases
Community trainings
SANE testimony prep
On-call for DPD Sex Crimes Detectives w/questions
Point of contact for victims with questions about a case refusal
Victim can request reimbursement from judicial district where the crime occurred.
Can help cover costs incurred as a result of the crime: medical bills, funds for therapy, loss of wages for injury, residential doors, locks, windows, etc.
Cannot pay for: motor vehicle repair, property loss/damage, rent/other bills, moving expenses, loss of cash.
Must have reported the crime and “cooperate” with investigation.
Does not required a case be filed and prosecuted.
Victims of violent crime afforded constitutional rights:
To be treated with fairness, respect and dignity
Informed of critical stages
Present at critical stages
Free from intimidation, harassment, abuse
Colorado Division of Criminal Justice
Victim Rights Act Compliance Program
Board will hear the complaint and determine of VRA has been violated. Stipulations placed on the agency found to be noncompliant.

Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center
Nonprofit, pro-bono legal assistance to help enforce victims rights.
i.e. Torres case/child support
Sexual Assault victims dissatisfied with the services provided by a member agency can call SAIC.

Informal process

Project Director will:
hear the concerns and arrange for those concerns to be expressed to the appropriate agency.
offer to accompany and mediate the interaction.
document the victims concerns and the representative’s response.

Purpose: Ensure individual victims do not fall through the cracks and/or ensure system issues do not persist
Varies by jurisdiction

Navigating a maze

Denver Sexual Assault Response Protocol
Denver Health Medical Center: preferred hospital

St. Anthony North & Central also good options.

Patient provided a private waiting and treatment room and medical needs are treated. Must be medically cleared before a forensic exam.

Hospital Social Worker collaborates with VAU to provide support and accompaniment.

Social Work calls RAAP Hospital Advocate or asks patient for permission for RAAP to call later.
2nd Judicial Victim Compensation
Denver District Attorney's Office
Special Populations:
Dove, Asian Pacific Development Center, Servicios de La Raza, Colorado Anti-Violence Program, Muslim Family Services, Active Military and Veteran Programs
Types of Victimization:
WINGS Foundation
Denver Center for Crime Victims
Visit denversaic.org
...respect decisions to report or not report.
Refer to a professional to help sort options.

...empower the resident to make own decisions.
Put some of the power back in their hands

...honor confidentiality.
What does this mean in your role?
Information shared on a “need-to-know” basis
Survivor awareness of who will receive information
Give Disclaimers
...stay within your designated role

...show general compassion
Statements like, “I am sorry this happened to you,” or “I believe you” or “would you like some water?”

...provide nonjudgemental listening
Survivor is already believes it was his/her fault in some way.

...understand person is in trauma
They may hear things differently, forget what you tell them, get angry, feel attacked, be on edge, etc.
“Maybe there is a lesson in the situation”
This is why you should cover your drink at parties.”

...“why” questions
Is it necessary to know? If not, avoid.
If yes, rephrase: “Why didn’t you fight back?” vs. “Were you able to physically resist?”

...statements that you don’t know are true
“Everything will be ok.” “You will recover.” “I know how you feel.”
Remember this:

If you don't know the answer, ask someone who does
Escaping abuser may mean losing housing

Out of pocket expenses following sexual assault are high
Estimated at $5,100 per victim in tangible losses
medical costs, mental health costs, productivity costs

Meeting basic needs vs. assistance post-assault
Bus tokens for visit to rape crisis center vs. to grocery store?

Lack of health insurance makes it difficult to receive aftercare following violence

May lose employment as a result of rape
PTSD and an inability to concentrate
Safety concerns at work
Privacy concerns
May have to miss work for court proceedings, interviews, etc.
it was her fault...she went to his house...she didn’t resist...she was drinking...she was dressed “like that”...she left the bar with him instead of her friends...she got him turned on and he couldn’t stop...she trusted him...she met him online...she is a sex worker...she was walking late at night...she is a known drug user...she makes poor choices all the time...
it wasn't really rape...men can’t be raped...she was playing hard to get...she would have been hysterical...she would have reported immediately...she went to work and seemed happy...she had sex with him before...she just wants revenge...she is covering up an affair...s/he had an orgasm...she doesn’t even look upset when she talks about it...her story keeps changing...he is gay and that's what they like...
He would never do this...it must have been miscommunication...he is well-respected, he is active in the church, everyone adores him...he's a doctor and she's just a barfly...
The survivor internalizes them

Influences if/when/how the victim discloses

Healing could be hindered

Perpetrators aren’t held accountable

Acceptance of rape myths contributes to acceptance of rape
A person is sexually assaulted in the U.S.

About 900 sexual offenses reported each year in Denver.

Extremely underreported--some estimates show 10% report, some 60%
Fear that the news media will reveal his/her identity
Distrust of police
Afraid of getting in trouble
Afraid others will find out
Fear of retaliation
Afraid they will not be believed
Afraid they will be blamed for the assault
Feelings that nothing can or will be done about it by authorities
Doesn’t want to damage relationships with family/friends
Guilt and self-blame
Fear of the perpetrator
Cultural Implications
historically biased criminal justice system;
Rape victim may be “used goods”
LGBTQ victim may fear being “outed.”
Undocumented victims may fear deportation
Sex may be taboo
No language to describe the crime
Anxiety, Hyper vigilance, Sleep disturbances, Nightmares, insomnia, Depression, Denial, Difficulty Concentrating, Flashbacks, Self-harm, Substance abuse, Shame, Withdrawal, Isolation, Eating difficulties, Nausea, vomiting, eating disorders, Sexual problems, Feelings of helplessness, Persistent fear/phobia, Feelings of numbness
Next Steps
Memory Loss
Inability to recall events in sequential order
May recall more details over time, after sleep cycles
“Frozen Fright”: Reaction as unconscious as breathing,

Fight or Flight?
Not accurate for most cases of sexual assault.
What are we doing to address sexual violence in our organization?

What are barriers to addressing sexual violence?

What can we do better?
Why not report?
If the case is filed, it is assigned a prosecution team:

Deputy District Attorney
Prepares for and conducts the prosecution of the case

Continues the investigation after the case is filed.

Victim Advocate
Informs victims of trial dates and other VRA information, provides support and encouragement during process, gives referrals, etc.

Updates the prosecution file and performs clerical duties
Full transcript