The 501c3 Files

By Adam and Sophia S.W. Bogle

Is it Safe to Talk About It?

Sexual Assault Response Team (S.A.R.T.)

We chose the Jackson County  S.A.R.T as our non-profit to write about many months ago before the topic of sexual assault became headline news. To learn about S.A.R.T, Adam and I both met with Susan Moen, the executive director, and then I met separately with Cherrith Young, who coordinates their 24/7 on-call Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (S.A.N.E.) program. Both of them emphasized how important it is to create an atmosphere where people will feel comfortable coming forward to get help after a sexual assault.

Part of creating this atmosphere means changing the cultural norms that have kept the topic of sexual assault out of casual conversations. So, it seemed particularly apt that while I was having lunch, (at Pangea restaurant) and writing this article, I happened to overhear five women discussing how to be taken seriously while testifying about sexual assault. It was clear from their tone that they were both passionate and frustrated with the current system. I didn’t say anything to them but I was secretly thrilled to overhear their conversation because they were not quiet about it at all and I think in the past that this would have been a more whispered conversation.

We have come a long ways. The police in Ashland are on board with the You Have Options Program (Y.H.O.P.) which gives the victim control over how and when to report what happened including talking about your options anonymously; which was not the case in the past and is still not the case in other areas of the state, although the program is spreading. Central Point, Eagle Point, and the Sheriff’s department are in the process of adopting YHOP as well.

Cherrith has been an ER nurse at Rogue Hospital for 14 years and took over the coordinator role about 2 years ago. Here is how the S.A.N.E. program works. A call comes in from one of the county’s three hospitals: Ashland, Rogue, and Providence. Then a S.A.N.E. nurse is dispatched who coordinates with Community Works for them to send an advocate as well.

It is important to send an advocate because the role of the nurse is to be there compassionately, and to give the person options that puts them in control of what happens next, but also they have to remain unbiased. One of the options available is for the nurse to collect forensic evidence which can be held for 60 years and can be saved anonymously. The advocate has a different role and could even go to the police with the person. The program also provides information about safe housing and free counseling and other resources. In Jackson county the S.A.N.E. nurses respond to calls around 100 times per year. All of these services are free.

Here are some things that are good to know: If you are the victim of sexual assault you can get help no matter how long ago it happened. The office of S.A.R.T. is a welcoming place. The goal is not to put people behind bars, but to provide survivors with support and services.

Here is a statistic that I found very enlightening. Studies estimate that only 5-10% of the male population commits sexual offenses, but those that do are usually serial offenders with many victims during their lifetime. SART has free support groups for women, men, and LGBTQ survivors and they also offer a support group for teens which is unusual because its facilitator is not a mandatory reporter so the teens have control over how, when, and if they report anything.

Donating to S.A.R.T. also helps to fund their prevention program. This is an K-12, age appropriate curriculum that starts by talking about getting consent for hugs, and personal space in kindergarten. It helps schools address Erin’s Law which is an unfunded mandate from the state of Oregon to help prevent child sex abuse.

The more we can normalize talking about it, the easier it will be for victims to come forward. It’s ok to get help.