Sexual Assault Response Team Explored

A few years ago, Kasey Skalicki, Safe Communities coordinator at the Valley City-Barnes County Health District (CCHD), found a young woman working in a gas station whom she always observed with a black eye. She also saw many people in the store but no one ever asked the woman about her injuries.

“I asked and she said: ‘Well, my boyfriend punched me in the face,’” Skalicki said Wednesday at a meeting of the Community Response Coalition (CRC). “We’re a community that doesn’t mind its own business, but when it really, we need to not mind our own business, and for some reason that doesn’t seem to always be happening... We can do a little more community awareness because I believe that that is our business.”

A statewide push from the Governor’s office is underway to reduce domestic violence, sexual assaults and domestic violence-related homicides in North Dakota after reports of such crimes have steadily risen in the western oil fields over the past couple years.

At its quarterly meeting on Wednesday the CRC, made up of representatives from the Valley City Police Department, CCHD, Valley City High School, Barnes County Social Services and the Abused Persons’ Outreach Center, decided to move forward with the development of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).

A SART is a small group of professionals who respond when there is a sexual assault, and is made up of law enforcement, a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse, a victim’s advocate and prosecution.
“Being as we have SANE nurses trained, we thought we should move ahead to have a SAR Team, They are specially trained people to respond when something happens,” Skalicki said. “Looking at a bigger picture, we’d also like to have a community group.”

According to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Barnes County reported eight rape cases from 2006 to 2010, compared to 1,036 cases reported statewide during that period. The most recent case of sexual assault in Valley City was reported Friday.

To establish a successful SART, funding must be acquired to compensate for nurses time and to purchase any needed equipment. Members of the CRC will contact SARTs in Jamestown, Wahpeton and Fargo to inquire how they acquired funding.

CCHD director Theresa Will said grant money might be available for the team, but CCHD would likely not receive any of the grant money due to their financial position. Likewise, the City and County Commissions would be reluctant to open up general fund money as both government entities support the CCHD budget.

Will said grants are also difficult be earned, but other area SARTs may be willing to partner up to help take on the workload.

“They’re a ton of work,” she said. “Whoever the partners, they would need to offer some significant time commitment. If there are other grants to get started, I think we should start there and then move into the collaborative SAR Teams.”

As part of the coordinated community response to domestic violence, the CRC has eight facets of the community it plans to focus on: Social Services providers to design and deliver services which are responsive to battered women and children’s needs; health care workers to develop and utilize safe and effective methods for identifying domestic violence; the justice system to regularly disclose relevant statistics on domestic violence case disposition; educators to support and educate teachers to recognize and respond to symptoms of domestic violence in students’ lives; clergy to speak out against domestic violence from the pulpit; media to prioritize subject matter and devote an equitable proportion of attention to battered women and children’s needs; employers to condition batterers’ continuing employment on remaining nonviolent; and the government to enact laws with define battering as criminal behavior, provide progressive consequences in sentencing and adequately fund battered women’s service agencies and violence-prevention education.