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breaking the silence PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 January 2018 10:46


locally and nationwide, victims are exposing sexual assault

• Leader & Times

Sexual assault has been a trending topic in the news lately with allegations coming out not only against major Hollywood players but also recent cases in the area including those against Tyrone, Okla., teacher Claire Torres who was officially  sentenced Oct. 2017 on multiple  counts of second degree rape and indecent exposure in Texas County District Court, and former Liberal High School coach and PE teacher Tyson McGuire who was arrested in December on charges of rape and sexual battery and is awaiting his first court appearance Jan. 29. 

With such cases coming to light, Liberal Area Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Services Director Lori Hensley recently talked about the services provided at LARC/DVS for victims.

“There are many ways clients can ‘present,’ as we call it, for services. One way is to give us a call on our crisis line at 620-624-8818 and after that phone call, they then get referred to services, whether they need to be sheltered immediately and if it’s not an immediate situation but someone needs to set up a time to meet with an advocate, they can do that as well,” Hensley said. “Also, they can come in through Police Response Advocacy program, which we call our PRA program and we only run that program in Seward County, so that’s with the Liberal Police Department and the Seward County Sheriff’s Department. That program is for anytime a domestic violence or sexual assault or stalking call is made to communications. So if someone calls 911 and says ‘My boyfriend/girlfriend is hitting me’ or ‘My girlfriend/boyfriend just scratched me,’ what have you, those phone calls, when they get dispatched to the LPD or Seward County Sheriff’s office, we then dispatch our PRA on scene. Through that on-scene connection, they can get to shelter if there’s a need for immediate shelter or they will be referred to services. Then within 72 hours, we phone them back and do a follow-up call and see how they’re doing.”

Hensley also emphasized all services offered through LARC/DVS are completely voluntary. 

“The thing about sexual assault, there’s this misnomer that sexual assault, if they talk to a SANE nurse or come here, we automatically report it, which is not true,” Hensley said. “We don’t report it ever, that individual will report. As far as what’s been discussed in the news, there’s been a lot of people coming out about sexual assaults that had happened to them many years before. I’m going to make the statement that there’s security in numbers. Does that mean every sexual assault has the ability to have security in numbers? No, because it doesn’t happen that way. These are very public cases we’re talking about with what’s been talked about recently but here, with what we deal with locally, these are individual situations.” 

LARC/DVS staff does not do the reporting, but what staff does do, Hensley said, is present options and information to clients who come in as well as provide whatever support is needed.

“We show them what the process looks like from start to finish. When Jane or John Doe come in and we meet with them and they tell us they’ve been a victim of sexual assault, we provide the best advocacy we can for those victims,” Hensley said. “We refer them to law enforcement, we explain what will happen if they speak to law enforcement, we explain what happens with the exam. We explain all the bases of what happens during that process and give them the information they need and then they ultimately make that decision for what they want to do. If someone comes in and says ‘I was raped last night’ and then decides to do a SANE exam, we go with them and support them from start to finish. If they want to report to law enforcement, we will accompany them to their interview with law enforcement if they so choose. They don’t have to have us go, but we do make ourselves available. When a traumatic event like that has happened, even if that advocate sitting next to you is someone who’s not known to you but is there to advocate on your behalf, a lot of times, they do accept that assistance. If a sexual assault or domestic violence victim presents at the police department, the police officers are trained to say ‘We have advocates who are available, would you like one here?’ We go with victims through everything and if it ultimately moves forward to prosecution, we go with them and work with the victim/witness coordinator at the district court and work with them through the process and help them get ready for the trial.” 

Hensley added there are many reasons victims report their assault and many reasons why victims choose not to report. 

“People report for many different reasons and people also don’t report for many different reasons, and there’s so many reasons on both sides under the sun,” Hensley said. “Fear of retaliation either by the perpetrator or someone close to the perpetrator. Also, embarrassment, embarrassment’s a huge one because they’re embarrassed this has happened to them. Then there’s been victim-blaming for so long, victims are scared to come forward because when they go to court, the defense tends to make it all about what’s happened in their past instead of the incident in question, and that is a paradigm shift we’re trying to get flipped over, we’ve been working on that almost the past 40 years to shift that paradigm over and stop blaming the victims. Shame is another one, and just the fact they don’t want their lives to become public. On the flip side, there’s many reasons victims do report, including they don’t want that to happen to someone else, and wanting the perpetrator to be punished for what they did and held responsible.”

And there are many things being done, Hensley said, to make that paradigm shift happen. 

“I think, especially in the four and a half years I’ve been here, the thing I’ve seen the most is we continue to show the percentage of individuals who falsely report sexual assault, which is less than 0.5 percent,” Hensley said. “So of all the sexual assaults that have been reported, it’s been deemed that by moving forward with prosecution, the ability to file a report and then move forward with prosecution, less than 0.5 percent have falsely reported. We have those types of conversations in training where people pair up in partners and then the partners each have about a minute to talk about their last consensual encounter and there’s dead silence almost because if you don’t want to talk about your last consensual encounter, why would you want to talk about something so horrific and traumatic?”

Hensley also offered encouragement for people to visit the center’s Web site www.larcdvs.com and the center’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LARCDVS. She added the doors to LARC/DVS are open to anyone in need of the center’s services. 

“Working with individuals who want to report, they’re the easy ones because we see them and can identify them and we know who they are because we work with them,” Hensley said. “It’s the individuals living in a silent trauma, those individuals need to know we’re here and we are very open to talking to them, we’re non-judgmental, and we won’t tell anyone else about what is discussed, we are extremely diligent about privacy and confidentiality here when it comes to our clients.”




About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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