WEDNESDAY, MAY 2: Authorities have lifted the lid on how they handle sexual assault reports to encourage more victims to come forward.
They say individuals should not hesitate to report the crime, as there is a “caring and experienced response system” in place.
Thanks to advances in technology, victims no longer come face to face with their attackers in identity parades and forensic evidence can be gathered up to five days after the assault.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is made up of police officers, trained forensic nurses and staff from the Women’s Resource Centre.
Child and Family Services are also involved when the victim is a child.
A joint statement released yesterday on behalf of police and the Women’s Resource Centre stated: “Once the crime has been reported police activate the response team.
“The victim attends a special location at the hospital where a statement is taken and they are examined by a skilled forensic nurse who is also trained to understand what the victim is going through.
“Evidence is then taken while ensuring that the victim is as comfortable as possible.”
Last year the SART dealt with 21 victims, which was seven more than the previous year. And 60 per cent of those individuals were under the age of 18.
Sex crime experts say victims should report offences as soon as possible, but maintain vital forensic evidence can still be retrieved several days after the attack.
They added: “Technology has progressed beyond the 72 hours of the previous kit. “And the new forensic kit is able to secure evidence up to five days after the crime.
“Even if the victim has to identify a perpetrator out of a line-up, it is now being done via an electronic profile, eliminating the need for a face-to-face confrontation. Victims are encouraged to avoid washing and destruction of clothing and underwear in order to preserve the best evidence possible.
“Even if a few days have passed, victims are encouraged to report the crime and allow the experts to make the decision concerning the evidence.”
The Women’s Resource Centre provides support for victims during the examination as well as in the form of aftercare counselling.
Elaine Williams, Executive Director of the centre, said: “Safety of the victim is paramount and other agencies such as the Centre Against Abuse’s Safe House may become a part of the support team should the need arise.”
The SART is available to male victims of sexual assault, although experts admit they tend not to report it.
Markland Telemaque, officer in Charge of the Vulnerable Person’s Unit, added: “We urge any victim of sexual assault not to hesitate in coming forward.
“Having the best possible support can greatly assist in the process of healing.
“We also want to let the public know that we are very capable and willing to help anyone through this traumatic experience while a victim attempts to get their life back together.”
• To report a crime of sexual assault call police on 911 or any of the branch stations.
For counseling and support, the Women’s Resource Centre can be reached between 9am and 5pm Monday through Friday at 295-3882, or by calling our 24 hour hotline at 295-7273.