Elkhart County joins with YWCA to form Sexual Assault Response Team
ELKHART COUNTY —
Sexual assault victims have a new resource to seek support in Elkhart County.
It’s group of volunteers called the Sexual Assault Response Team.
These volunteers will be the first people to speak with victims at hospitals. Team members will listen to victims, provide resources and ongoing support.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker says this new Sexual Assault Response Team fills a void.
Becker says prosecutors and law enforcement have to put objectivity and integrity over being warm and sensitive.
That’s why these new volunteers are filling that role.
“Having someone who is more empathetic and sympathetic and compassionate and that will be there from the front end when that is the need that is required is such a bonus to this community," says Becker.
Ramona Mehall is one of those new compassionate volunteers.
"Just knowing that somebody is there to listen to you and believe you, I think it's just so important," says Mehall.
A listening ear is just the start of a conversation to help victims process what’s going on and begin the healing process.
Elkhart Co. YWCA Sexual Assault Counselor Tara Tuttle says this new team has been in the works for a year.
"A victim advocate will not only provide emotional support but they will answer questions. What does it mean to report? Should I report? They can point them in the direction of victims assistance at the prosecutor’s office to ask more detailed questions," says Tuttle.
Volunteers will be able to guide them toward clinical and legal support from experts.
“Now it's someone that perhaps knows their role is just to listen rather than to investigate or find facts," says Becker. "So it helps from the perspective of making sure that first encounter is with the victim needs to be able to have the strength and the courage to move forward.”
Volunteers will start responding to hospitals on November 1st.
The YWCA is looking for more response team volunteers.
If you are interested, call (574) 830-5073.