By Haley Doss, Assistant News Editor —
Partnership’s Rape Crisis Center’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) combines effort from campus and community members to help victims of sexual assault.
As the school year comes to a close, the number of sexual assault and harassment reports are currently totaled at nineteen.
The combined total of 19 is made up of 14 reports of sexual assault and five reports of harassment.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 11.2 percent of all students have been subject of rape or sexual assault. This number expands after higher education with one in six women and one in 10 men being victims of rape over the course of their lifetime.
Along with University entities like the The Women’s Center and the UTC Police, a nonprofit located right off campus is assisting victims of rape and sexual assault for all of Hamilton and Marion County.
Partnership’s Rape Crisis Center is located on East Eight Street, just a few streets over from South Campus housing.
The Center provides counseling, medical examinations, screenings and medication to victims as well as legal and court advocacy and referrals for those who choose to report or press charges. All of their services are free of charge.
Bergen Baucom Aldahir, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Partnership, states that the Rape Crisis Center works with the UTC Police frequently through their Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
SART meets monthly to coordinate with several community members including the District Attorney’s office, local law enforcement, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County and Homeland Security to discuss current reports of sexual assault and rape.
“We serve as a hub…to make sure these cases do not fall through the cracks,” said Aldahir. “I am very thankful and pleased to see that we have something that progressive and this extra accountability and this tool to keep everyone accountable.”
Aldahir states that the Center is very grateful to law enforcement and investigators but they often handle many cases at one time and the committee effort keeps each investigation together.
“For anyone who walks into our facility, this is our client and we are caring for them, just as [law enforcement] will too but there has to be a way to keep people from falling through the cracks and I think that SART does a good job of that.”
Aldahir feels that the benefits of a Rape Crisis Center is that is is open 24/7 and the victim does not have to go to the hospital, where they are forced to tell several people about the situation without any privacy.
“What is really nice about our Rape Crisis Center is that it all takes place right there, in one room, with one story to one person you are working with, maybe two but throughout the whole process,” said Aldahir. “We are very trauma informed so we are taking these precautions and work to not create more trauma in the process because you have already gone through so much.”
She stresses that the Center never pressures a victim to press charges.
“Just because you come in for a “rape kit” or an examination does not mean you have to press charges,” said Aldahir. “We are never going to pressure you to report, we are never going to pressure you to do not want to do. If you start a forensic examination and you cannot do it and you say stop, it is over.”
After examination and discussion with an experienced trauma nurse, victims are provided a place for to take a shower, a fresh set of clothes and are provided an advocate. After the fact, the center provides counseling for as a long as necessary.
“This is about honoring you and bringing dignity and respect back to your body when it has been stolen,” said Aldahir.
While the Center does not pressure to report, Aldahir notes that the act of reporting can have a strong significance for change.
“For us to make strides in ending sexual assault, it is going to take an increase in reporting. The average college rapist, if you will, will assault six to seven women before he graduates and what we know about perpetrators is that there are not a lot of them. They are very few and far between but they are doing this over and over.”
With this in mind, Aldahir encourages reporting as a way to stop the cycle and getting the perpetrators in jail or suspended for the safety of others.
“As our society gets more education, I think it will reflect in how we punish this crime because right now, it is statistically easier to sentence someone to death than it is to get a conviction for rape,” said Aldahir.
Partnership also provides family, elder, youth and deaf services.
In terms of the pending sexual assaults from this year, the UTC Police ____