Sexual Assault Victim Advocates from Fort Detrick conducted partnership training with local sexual assault response agencies at Frederick Memorial Hospital, Aug. 7.
"I was expecting the training to introduce the victim advocates within the Fort Detrick community to the local agencies ... in hopes of bridging the gap between the two, streamlining the process of bringing better support to victims in the case of incident," said 21st Signal Brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Sgt. 1st Class Dominique Kess.
The training allowed the advocates to become familiar with three local agencies: the Frederick Police Department Special Victims Unit, Heartly House, and Frederick Memorial Hospital. This training gave the advocates an inside look into how each agency assists Fort Detrick when responding to potential sexual assaults.
As a smaller installation, Fort Detrick does not have the resources to fully respond to sexual assaults like large installations, according to Kess. For example, there is no Criminal Investigation Division field office on Fort Detrick, so sexual assault incidents are often investigated by the Frederick Police Department, even if the incident takes place on post.
Two detectives from the Frederick Police Department Special Victims Unit explained their investigation protocol and unique joint jurisdiction with the Fort Detrick Provost Marshal Office, giving the advocates a better understanding of the role FPD plays in a sexual assault investigation.
The Fort Detrick PMO allows the FPD to investigate most sexual assault incidents involving installation personnel because FPD may be the first to hear of the assault. The medical facility on Fort Detrick does not have the resources to perform the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination. This exam can only be performed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. Frederick Memorial Hospital has one full-time SANE, Pamela Holtzinger.
Holtzinger described the SAFE exam in detail, briefing the advocates on what equipment is used, how long an exam may take, and a look at a SAFE examination room.
A representative from Heartly House, a national nonprofit organization that provides support to domestic violence and sexual assault victims, explained their role in response to potential sexual assault incidents.
Heartly House is considered to be a first responder. When a potential victim goes to the hospital, the FMH always contacts Heartly House to support and accompany the victim, regardless of if the victim files a restricted (non-investigated) or unrestricted (investigated) report.
If the victim is a military member, Heartly House contacts the Fort Detrick Installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator so a victim advocate can be assigned to the case.
"I believe the training was well received by all the Fort Detrick SHARP Personnel; it shows how community coordination is vital in combating a troubling subject," said Mark Minter, Fort Detrick Installation and U.S. Army Medical Readiness and Materiel Command SARC.
Fort Detrick has three Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and 28 victim advocates. A SARC is assigned to brigade-level and higher units and manages the advocate within their subordinate units. A victim advocate is assigned to battalion-level elements.
Starting in 2008, the Army reformed its old sexual assault program, then called Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, which focused on the victim after the fact. The mission of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program is to encourage others to intervene before an incident occurs.