SART grows and responds to more demand for servicesThe cozy laid-back feel of rural western Wisconsin may lull people into believing rape doesn’t happen here.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The cozy laid-back feel of rural western Wisconsin may lull people into believing rape doesn’t happen here.
The St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team, run from a center on North Main Street in River Falls, knows better.
SART Executive Director Kristi Pavek said last year the team treated about 70 cases in its service area of Pierce and St. Croix counties. She expects that number to grow, as it has since SART started in 2001.
When the team opened its SART Center in 2006, Pavek said the number of cases doubled. Victims can get treatment any day and any hour at the center.
“We’re different from any other program in the state,” the director said.
Pavek confirms the need for SART also exists in neighboring counties. As early as 2003, people in Polk County asked about getting SART services in their community.
The timing was never right, but Pavek and SART Client Services Coordinator Erin McNiff said that’s about to change. Eight more specially trained nurses joined the SART team to work in Polk and Burnett counties.
“We are literally doubling the size of our organization,” said Pavek.
Victims in the two neighboring counties will meet a nurse at one of the local hospitals. Polk has three; Burnett has one.
In Pierce and St. Croix counties, victims can either meet a nurse at a hospital or at the SART center.
“Victims usually choose to come here,” Pavek said about the home-like center.
The local team has seen a few victims from those counties but says the distance presents another obstacle to an already difficult goal.
Pavek said only a fraction of sexual assault victims ever report the crimes and that Polk County has more reported cases than either Pierce or St. Croix.
Pavek says the goal is to have SART going in Polk and Burnett by Jan. 1, 2010.
Known as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), the individuals doing the forensic exams must first be a registered nurse with at least one year of experience, plus train for an additional 60 hours.
Pavek and McNiff said they’ve hired seven nurses hired and plan to find one more.
All of them will attend training at a borrowed bank space in Hudson. Usually, SANE trainees travel to Madison for a week then come to SART. They get more information about the medical aspects and care procedures, and McNiff trains them in the extensive administrative processes involved with SART care.
Pavek said the nurses receive a $150 stipend for each call, which often occurs in the middle of the night. She said she is glad to be working with “those kinds of nurses,” who don’t get paid much but do the work because they care about it.
“That’s good. We want that,” said McNiff. “Their heart has to be in it.”
Pavek said about services, “The job is to do whatever the victim needs us to do.”
That might include post-rape counseling, referral to aftercare, a medical examination, DNA evidence removal, moral support, help with insurance filing, testimony in court and other kinds of advocacy.
Some victims who come to the SART center don’t want to report or prosecute the crime but need other services. Pavek says Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence (also in River Falls) often serves those victims.
When asked where the SART gets funding, Pavek replied, “Foundations and the public.”
She said in some cases, there might be a few hundred dollars available from a victims’ compensation fund. Hospitals also pay $500 for the team’s services if a nurse goes to the hospital to treat a victim.
Pavek said she’s applied for a generous startup grant to help SART expand into Polk and Burnett counties but hasn’t heard yes or no on it yet. The four hospitals in those counties will pay for the training of the eight, new SANE nurses who will work their two-county area.
River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque said, “We are very fortunate to have a program like SART.”
He said if a victim reports a sexual assault, they may end up calling the local police, county sheriff, SART itself, a friend, the hospital, Turningpoint, or a number of other contacts.
Leque calls SART service “personalized” and said it demonstrates the level of concern authorities have for traumatized sexual assault victims.
“Our standard procedure is to use the SANE nurse to do our forensic evidence collection,” he said. “It’s what they do.”
River Falls Area Hospital Nursing Supervisor and 31-year hospital employee Cindy Durow says she works the emergency room when a sexual assault victim comes in.
If the person has no other physical injuries that need to be checked by a doctor, she immediately contacts the on-call SART nurse.
She values their services and remembers the days without them. Policy demands that a victim not be left alone for what sometimes turns into hours of care. Durow said left one less person on hand to deal with other emergencies.
“They continue to follow up with the patient,” Durow said. “Some need additional counseling, some need someone to go with them to court. These are things that the hospital cannot provide.”
Learn more about SART online at www.stcroixvalleysart.org or by calling 425-6443.