The need for a community-based clinic and safe-house for the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence is a need I have recognized for many years in my rural community. Our Florida Circuit 14 has 6 counties with 5 of these counties rural. I have worked 20 years in our local emergency rooms. It is very difficult to find these needed resources for sexual assault/domestic violence. The nearest is over 60 miles away and a very long process of intake paperwork before the victims can lay their heads down just to rest. The only other resource is for children under 15 years old. I have seen the mother and child be seperated at a time when they only had each other with the clothes they had on when they left the violent situation.
I have worked to become a resource medical-forensic nurse for my rural areas for the last 3 years. I have built up a network of resources for our victims. We had a house loaned to us to establish a clinic for these victims. We once had only 5-6 sexual assaults reported per year in my local county. The other 4 counties had 0-3 reports. We have documented and been able to assist 53 victims of sexual assault in 3 years from these 5 counties. This is 32 from my local county alone. Sadly, most of these numbers have been children under 12 years of age. The numbers for domestic violence victims and their children have been over 75. This has also included fathers with children. It has proved something I have said all along, "If people have a place to go, they will go". This program has been promoted by word of mouth through law enforcement and victims themselves.
We are now seeing the productivity of our work on the legal spectrum. We are showing a 95% arrest rate and a 90% prosecution rate with the cases we have been involved with the initial SART response. We are even being asked to advance out of our local circuit and include neighboring circuits. We won't refuse any victim who has a need for our services.
We are also covering the Florida Department of Corrections in Region 1. We actually respond to the prisons' clinics for the medical-forensic exams. The public safety issue was recognized by the prison officials who embraced the idea as well as the fact it does save the Department of Correction money. It still addresses the inmate's right for an objective medical-forensic exam. This program is the first in Florida and a first in the United States for the department of corrections.
I have a medical director who actually gives her time for free as I do for this program. She actually buys the medications needed for sexual assaults such as the morning after pills and gives the victims and their children free medical care and follow-up. We recognize the need to place a pilot community-based clinic in these other rural counties. We have out-grown our "SART House". The safe haven house has been named "Jesse's Haven". The Mission Statement:"The only problems a child should hve is being a child". We are wanting to establish at least 3 other "Jesse's Haven"s in 3 other rural areas. It is just an inter-mediate haven until the long-term safe house can be negotiated for the victim.
"At the End of Justice, the Healing begins...............
For sexual assault/domestic violence victims to consistantly receive prompt, compassionate and appropriate emergency care from medical professionals who understand victimization issues.
To strive to ensure vicitms are not re-victimized/traumatized by the evidentiary exam to facilitate the healing process to become survivors.
To meticulously collect evidence in suspect exams for case investigation, prosecution and to provide expert forensic-medical testimony about evidence collection.
To collaborate with victim advocates to ensure victims receive crisis intervention, available treatment options, safety planning and referrals for other needed types of assistance with ongoing support to over come their circumstances to become survivors.
To work closely with other members of the community resources to utilize a SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) approach to meet the multiple needs of victims and hold the offenders accountable for their crimes.