Workshop details how agencies help victims of sexual-assault crimes

By Linda Linonis

YOUNGSTOWN — Two services locally provided aren’t generally on people’s radar.

Ellen Taylor, program director of Rape Information and Counseling at the Family Service Agency, and Jill Miller, family advocate with the Child Advocacy Center, detailed how their agencies help victims of sexual-assault crimes.

“Working on Solutions to Sexual Assault Crimes” was the topic of a workshop Tuesday coordinated by Delphine Baldwin-Casey of Essence of Weaponry. A detective-sergeant with the Youngstown Police Department, Baldwin-Casey does sexual-assault training for the department, including the YPD-Family Investigations Services Unit, which handles sexual assaults, sexual abuse, domestic violence and crimes committed by children.

About 15 people, representing mostly social service agencies, attended the workshop in Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University.

Mahoning County provides a service to victims of sexual assault that is not mandated by Ohio, though it is in other states. Taylor said that service is called the Sexual Assault Response Team.

The team consists of a sexual-assault nurse examiner, who is skilled in collecting physical evidence of sexual assault; an assistant prosecutor who specializes in sexual-assault and sexual-abuse crimes and felony domestic-violence cases; a detective from YPD Family Investigations Services Unit who handles the police work; a representative of the Child Advocacy Center if the victim is a minor; and a representative of the Rape Information and Counseling Program.

She said the team responded to 85 crisis interventions in 2008, and 27 people went on for further services such as counseling. Taylor said “figures are hard to pin down” as far as the number of sexual assaults that actually take place.

Workshop information noted that current statistics indicate one in six women and one in 33 men are sexually violated; less than 35 percent of assaults are reported to police; and 20 percent to 35 percent of all reports have judicial resolution.

Taylor said her agency helps the victim through criminal justice and judicial support and advocacy, assistance with emergency needs, short-term crisis counseling and assistance with victims’ compensation.

Miller said the Child Advocacy Center, which began in 2000, saw just under 500 children in 2008 from Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties in Ohio and Mercer County in Pennsylvania. “Most of what we see is sexual abuse,” Miller said, noting that the clients are referred by children services agencies.

Miller said that of the clients, 30 percent to 40 percent of minors are abused by family members, and 60 percent are abused by someone the family trusts.

“We focus on counseling and counseling referrals. We have a plan for counseling the child and parents,” she said.

Miller said the center offers a program for churches, 4-H, schools, coaches and police about how to spot signs of possible abuse and how to identify potential predators. “You can’t assume by someone’s role in the community that children are safe with them,” she said. “We want children to grow up whole and protected.”

The Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Youngstown, offered “The Pastor’s Response to Sexual Abuse.”

He advised churches to have practices and protocols in place for those who volunteer with young people in the church and to rotate staff duties. “This is about due diligence. Ask probing questions,” he said. The pastor said parents should be monitoring text messages and cell phones and who young people contact.

Martha Katz, a licensed counselor, spoke on “Prevention: Raising Children Not to Be Victims,” and Baldwin-Casey spoke on “Prevention and Intervention” and “Sexual Harassment.” There also was a panel discussion.

More like this from