By Ms. Kaytrina Curtis (Winn ACH)September 18, 2019
The SART multi-disciplinary team provided a unique opportunity that took the attendees through the processes of reporting, treating, investigating, advocating and litigation of a case that involved a sexual assault, domestic violence and non-fatal strangulation allegations.
In this free continuing education training program, attendees such as special victim investigators, victim advocates, social workers, behavioral health specialists, special victim prosecutors, Criminal Investigation Division agents, doctors, nurses and judges, to name a few, were able to earn 13 continuing education credits for use in their respective fields.
Day one of the training concentrated on classroom lectures such as victimology, which helps identify risk factors of becoming a victim from the background/environmental/culture of the victim.
U.S. Medical Department Activity-Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Winn Army Community Hospital employee, Stacy Easley, a registered nurse in the Clinical Perioperative department at Winn ACH said through the training she learned to gather facts, and how to deliver them in court as facts.
"Don't add, don't take away," Easley said. "Be a neutral freestanding arm of this process, not for or against a suspect."
Proper communication is key when responding to any report of sexual misconduct. The purpose for the SART is the development of multidisciplinary victim-centered response to sexual assault.
Although the MEDDAC Chief of the Department of Behavioral Health, Maj. Peter Dell, was unable to attend the trainings, he said he was able to allow some of his staff to attend the value-packed program.
"The training was an opportunity for participants to get a more in-depth understanding of the roles and responsibilities that each member of the sexual assault response team performs," Dell said, "which in turn helps break down the silos naturally created when multiple disciplines and agencies are involved."
Dell said the training fosters a culture of collaboration and appreciation for each of the agency's roles.
A Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Sergeant First Class Melinda Sessoms, agrees with Dell's assessment and was reminded of the great resources Army Community Service offers the military and command teams on the installation.
"They are more than an agency that provides Loans and deployment assistance," Sessoms explained. "The Family Advocacy Program is a resource which strengthens and assist military dependents, who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and [or] molestation. They provide dependents with Victim Advocates that assist them with attaining the appropriate resources."
During day two, attendees had the chance to serve or observe a practical courtroom exercise, which included a mock sexual assault case proceeding in the Fort Stewart court room.
Dual hatted Shelly Larkin, the MEDDAC Sexual Assault Medical Director, who also serves as the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator, was responsible for the evaluation and critique of the SAMFE testimony regarding the sexual assault case.
The goal was to improve the expert witness capabilities of the SAMFE's, along with providing training for both Trial and Defense Counsels. It also provided exposure to all the agencies that comprise the SART all the way to the Court Martial Process in these special victim's cases.
The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator/Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program Victim Advocates provide advocacy services for active-duty Soldiers; National Guard and reserve member Soldiers when performing active service and inactive-duty training; dependents of said service members 18-years-old and older; DOD Civilians; and civilians who have been sexually assaulted on the installation by a service member.
"Here at Ft Stewart victims of sexual assault … are important and that no one has to go through that experience alone," Dell said. "We are a team made of a diverse group of professionals that are committed to a comprehensive and timely response during a time of great uncertainty and range of emotion for those affected by sexual assault."
According to Dell, the training allowed for those who are typically in a courtroom environment to become more familiar with the judicial process and the legal system in general.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, call the 24/7 manned SHARP Hotline at 912-271-9958.