Steamboat Springs In 2007, 23 sexual assaults in Routt County were reported to Advocates Against Battering and Abuse.
It's only July, and 21 victims have come forward this year.
Whether incidence or reporting - or both - are increasing is unclear. But what no one can deny is that sexual assault is happening in our community, Advocates Executive Director Diane Moore said.
"People seem to embrace that domestic violence is pretty big here," Moore said. "But a lot of people in our community can't seem to understand that sexual violence is happening here, as well."
The "Steamboat naivete" that "crime doesn't happen here" is continually contradicted by ever-increasing calls for service across the board, Steamboat police Det. Dave Kleiber said.
In response to perceived increasing need, Advocates is hosting a weeklong training led by Tara Henry, a forensic nurse and consultant from Anchorage, Alaska. The training is aimed at improving Routt County's multi-disciplinary response to sexual violence. Representatives from all county law enforcement agencies have attended, along with local medical professionals and victim advocates, and officials from Grand and Moffat counties.
Training has focused on how to best incorporate medical professionals into forensic investigation, how victims respond psychologically to trauma and how to interview them in a sensitive manner, Henry said.
"We're trying to better our processes so that they're best for the victim, from all aspects," said Dr. Jeanne Fitzsimmons, representing the emergency room at Yampa Valley Medical Center during this week's training.
"The more training your agencies have, the more comfortable victims are going to be in coming forward," Moore said.
The training also has focused on teaching how to get more evidence out of forensic exams of victims and suspects, for easier prosecution down the line, Moore said.
"Our society still does a pretty good job of thinking that if the victim or the survivor had done something different, the incident wouldn't have happened," Moore said. "Our society tends to blame the victim instead of holding offenders accountable."
- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org