In honor of sexual assault awareness month, the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma is partnering with the District Attorneys Council to offer a free training session on evidence-based response to sexual assault. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 12 at Southern Tech in Building B.
DeeDee Hunter, victim advocate, said those who attend will receive six CLEET hours, including two hours of mental health training. In addition to being valuable training hours for law enforcement, counseling agencies and physicians, Hunter said the members of the general public are also encouraged to attend.
She said the day’s training will outline a sexual assault investigation, beginning with the steps law enforcement and other first responders should take when responding to a sexual assault.
While the free training event has been an ongoing project for several years, Director Kathy Manning said this year will be a bit different. For the first time, Cindy Smith, an investigator from the Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Office will be making the presentation.
“It’s so nice to have someone new come down to speak,” Manning said. “They always teach you something you didn’t know, and I feel like we’ve presented similar information for a few years in a row now. I’m looking forward to a fresh perspective.”
Manning said sexual assault awareness month is a valuable opportunity to inform the public of the Family Shelter’s work with victims.
“When people think of this agency, domestic assault has kind of been in the forefront of people’s minds,” Manning said. “We also serve sexual assault victims, and we’ve been to several sexual assault cases recently. It’s important that victims are aware of who will be present and what their rights are.”
Hunter said all sexual assault forensic exams take place in the emergency room at Mercy Hospital, and that the Family Shelter is automatically called in to be an advocate for the victim.
“There are a lot of different support programs that we can offer and a lot of things the victims don’t know,” Hunter said. “It’s their right to have an advocate present, so we’re there to offer those services.”
She added that the shelter helps victims create a safety plan for after their release from the hospital. They then check in with the victim after the plan is enacted.
Manning said the training will give insight into how law enforcement and victim service agencies work together.
“It’s crucial for all of us to collaborate and work together,” Manning said. “It’s so important for everybody to see how different programs and organizations help the victim through the entire process. It will give you an entirely different perspective on what the victim goes through from start to finish.”
Anyone interested in attending the free training session can register by sending an email to lovecoadvocate@cableone.net.