Grant-funded coordinator to work with sexual assault victims, investigators

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— About $40,000 has been awarded to hire a part-time person to advocate for victims of sexual assault and to help improve the way the crimes are investigated and prosecuted in Routt County.

Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Dave Kleiber said the sexual assault coordinator will work for the local sexual assault response team. The team is composed of representatives from law enforcement, the Routt County District Attorney’s Office, Advocates Building Peaceful Communities and Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Kleiber said the community will benefit from the coordinator position because there will be a specific person responsible for coordinating the efforts of law enforcement and victim advocacy, and they will help ensure the investigations are done in an effective and consistent manner. The coordinator, who will work 20 hours each week for the 18-month grant period, also will help coordinate training.

Kleiber said the specialized attention to sex assault crimes and the resources that a coordinator could bring are important.

“It’s a completely unique crime,” Kleiber said.

Advocates Executive Director Diane Moore said a coordinated effort is important because sex assaults are difficult to investigate and prosecute. Often, there are no witnesses, and victims can be hesitant to come forward.

“We have a society that does some victim blaming of victims of sex assault more so than other crimes, so survivors oftentimes will not report,” Moore said.

She said 20 to 30 victims of sexual assault are served by Advocates each year, and she thinks that is just a fraction of the total numbers of victims.

Moore said she hopes the coordinator also will help educate the community about what services are available to sex assault victims. She hopes to have the coordinator working by June 1.

The grant funding is coming from federal dollars that are distributed to mostly rural Colorado communities through the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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