Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - Thursday, May 15, 2008
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SAAFE house seeks advocates for victims of sexual assault
Polk County Enterprise - May 2008
LIVINGSTON — It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, regardless of age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status. Sexual assault takes many forms including: rape, attempted rape, marital rape and child sexual abuse. It is estimated that 25 percent to 35 percent of women will be sexually assaulted. Approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of all men will be victims before they are 18 (National Victims Center). Even with these numbers, most of us hold the belief that it can’t happen to us, according to Charlotte Judd, victim advocate for SAAFE House. Sexual assault is something heard about on the news, it happens to other people. The truth of the matter is sexual assault happens everywhere.

In Polk County alone there were 70 cases of child molestation for 2006. Also, 170 registered sex offenders reside in Polk County. In response to these numbers, the district attorney’s office decided to take action, Judd said. The community along with the sheriff and police departments, Memorial Medical Center-Livingston emergency room and nursing director, nurses, child protective services and SAAFE House are joining together to create what is known as a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). This team will improve the provision of services to survivors of sexual assault in Polk County. After a sexual assault has occurred medical attention is needed.

Also, there is a short period of time in which to collect forensic evidence. This evidence is collected at the emergency room and by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. The response team will foster intra-agency communication about sex offenses happening within the community and make sure the criminal justice system and advocates are aware of what’s going on, District Attorney Lee Hon said in a recent interview. “SART will ensure these victims are getting prompt counseling and advocacy services and will understand what their rights are during the process facing them,” he said. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience. Many times victims do not know where to go, what services are available, how they will be treated upon seeking services and most do not report out of feelings of shame or embarrassment. There is never a time when there is only one victim of sexual assault. Other victims are known as secondary and include family and friends of the person who was attacked.

This is where the sexual assault advocate steps in and provides numerous services. The advocate is there to provide crisis intervention, assistance and information to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. More specifically, Texas law states that the victim has the right to have a trained advocate with her or him throughout the entire sexual assault exam. By having advocates available to respond quickly to sexual assault victims benefit in numerous ways. The victim is able to re-establish trust with others quicker, he or she feels like part of team and the recovery and healing process is faster. Advocates help victims become survivors. If you are interested in or would like more information about volunteering as a sexual assault advocate for Polk County, contact Charlotte Judd at SAAFE House (936) 291-3529.


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