Local Law Enforcement Goes Through Sexual Assault Response Team Training

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

Wednesday was the final day of Sexual Assault Response Team Training for a number of local and state law enforcement agencies, including the Kodiak Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers in Kodiak and officers from the police departments in Bethel, Dillingham and Nome. The training, which is through the Alaska Council of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, began Monday.

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Rebecca Shields, executive director of the Kodiak Women’s Resource and Crisis Center, says the majority of sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows. But not always. The person could be an acquaintance or a stranger, and the setting could be a home or a bar.

“One of the things certainly that people should look out for would be the date rape drug. In cases like that you’d want to be very, very careful to always pay attention to your surroundings, never accept a drink if you did not know or see that drink be poured.”

Sometimes the conditions surrounding the assault are more systematic, as in the case of sex trafficking, which Shields says is an issue in Kodiak.

“And there are definitely certain parts of our population that can become very vulnerable to this. Homeless teenagers, people that are in a social situation that are unprotected can find themselves in a situation where they can be taken advantage of.”

One of the people at the training was the Kodiak Alaska State Troopers Sergeant Cornelius Sims, who says the troopers are aware of the issue of sex trafficking in Kodiak. He says usually law enforcement learns about sexual assault cases through other avenues, like the women’s shelter or a medical service.

One benefit of the training is that it helps law enforcement behave in a way that will put the victim at ease so that they might be more likely to share necessary information.

Sims describes how a trooper might act when sitting down with a victim.

“Body language speaks volumes. We communicate more with our nonverbal than we do with our verbal. So being mindful of our nonverbal cues, the nonverbal things. A large part of it is allowing the victim to tell their story and not interrupt them with questions. Having been in this career for 15 years now, that’s one of the largest things I’ve learned.”

Sims stresses how important it is to establish trust between law enforcement and the people who have suffered sexual assault.

“A year, two years down the road, they may decide they do want to go forward and, if we have that evidence, if we have the opportunity to collect that evidence when they first come forward, we will have that further down the road. It is extremely important for victims to feel empowered to come forward.”

Sims says it’s never too late for victims to tell their story no matter how much time has pass. Law enforcement will still investigate the case.

The next Sexual Assault Response Team Training is scheduled for March and it’ll be a state-wide event.

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