A dozen different agencies are coming together in Yankton to change how victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are treated after the call for help goes out. Nancy Naeve Brown talked to members of the sexual assault response team that started with the help of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.
The deadly and dark reality of domestic violence came to light in Yankton in April of this year when 25 year old Brianna Knoll was found dead in her car. Police say she was shot in the middle of the night trying to get away from her boyfriend 28 year old Nicholas Hines. Hines turned the gun on himself but survived. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Executive Director of the Yankton Women's Children's Center Desiree Warren says, "We need to pull together to let people know we aren't going to tolerate that."
The tragedy definitely spurred a response by first responders including Avera Sacred Heart's Emergency Department, police detectives and officers, sheriff's deputies, juvenile corrections, court services, child protection, state's attorney, Women's and Children's Center, Mount Marty, humane society, emergency medical services. 6 months ago they started SART in Yankton, a sexual assault and response team. The committee meets monthly. Yankton Police Chief Brian Paulsen says there are about 140 cases of domestic violence reported a year, but that does not include sexual assault and stalking cases.
Yankton Police Chief Brian Paulsen says, "We know it's under reported and that's because we haven't provided services and have been short on our services and our response. We want to strengthen our response. We understand our numbers more than likely will go up and then once we peak we will use our resources and then those will drop. That's what this is all about is prevention and resources to empower our victims."
Avera Sacred Heart ER Nurse Tara Hagen sees first hand what women go through at the hands of an abuser and or attacker. She is happy to be part of the response team.
Tara says, "I want to make sure I was doing the best job I could for the victims and I think getting the entire community involvement in this town provides them with the best chance of prosecuting this case."
Desiree Warren says, "Having the support of the whole community is helping us to create awareness through the whole community that what we are doing does impact everybody in some way."
These folks are going to do everything in their power to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault become survivors by spreading the word there is help in every direction.
SART'S first organized event will be a candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence on the last Monday in September at the Yankton 4-H grounds. Also on September 17th during Yankton's Ribfest is the 4th annual "Walk in her Shoes" event to raise money and awareness for domestic violence. The men have to wear high heels to participate.