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Crawford part of five-county regional SART team

October 15, 2008
Following a July 1, 2007, statute that required county prosecutors to establish either a countywide sexual assault response team (SART) or create a regional SART team, Crawford joined Dubois, Orange, Perry and Spencer counties in August of that year to form a regional team to more effectively deal with instances of sexual assault or molestation within the five-county area.

The team consists of four sections: nurses, advocacy, law enforcement and prosecutors. The nurses perform an exam to collect any evidence from a victim of sexual assault. The advocacy groups provide support for the victims through the entire process and help them deal with the assault psychologically. The law enforcement officers proceed with any investigation into the assault, including interviews, collecting evidence and apprehending suspects. The prosecutors ultimately make a case against those accused of committing sexual assault if the victim chooses to press charges.

The nurses on the regional SART team are Penny Alexander of Bloomington Hospital, Linda Wells-Freiberger of Bloomington Hospital, Candace Isom of Bloomington Hospital, Rebecca McClure of Crawford County, Kathy Scifres of Floyd Memorial and Health Services and Vicki Stuffle of Memorial Hospital at Jasper.

The advocacy representatives are Jon Kuss of Hoosier Hills PACT, Lisa McSpadden of The Center for Women and Families and Beth Stein of Crisis Connection.

Law enforcement officials for the SART team include Kyle Brewer of Floyd Memorial, Chris Cecil of the Indiana State Police, Alan Malone of the Tell City Police Department, Phillip Stowers of the ISP, Dubois County Sheriff Terry Tanner and Crawford County Sheriff Tim Wilkerson.

All five county prosecutors are also on the team. They are Robert Collins of Perry, Jon Dartt of Spencer, Mike Fritch of Dubois, Cheryl Hillenburg of Crawford and Kelly Minton of Orange.

The regional SART team was arranged by Hillenburg, who saw the need for a team as early as 1998 after participating in SART training in Fort Wayne the previous year. However, the county never got around to getting a team until the legislation made it mandatory.

After receiving the statute, Hillenburg decided that a regional team would better serve the county since Crawford did not have its own hospital. With the regional team, victims of sexual assault have the choice of three local hospitals in Orange, Dubois and Perry counties. Which hospital they go to can depend on where the victim lives in Crawford or personal preference if a victim doesn't want to run the risk of seeing someone he or she knows.

If after receiving an exam and the victim of sexual assault does not want to press charges, the evidence is held for up to a year before it is destroyed in case the victim changes her or his mind, Hillenburg said.

However, if the victim indicates that they may press charges at some point, the evidence can be held indefinitely.

Hillenburg said that in the last 18 months there have been 11 cases of child molestation filed in Crawford County, with those occurring after August 2007 being handled by the SART team.

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