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New Program for Sex Assault Response Volunteers

Based on new statewide standards.

The Morris County Sexual Assault Center will hold a new session of training for Sexual Assault Response Team confidential advocates beginning Sept. 7.

The 40-hour training course will follow a new statewide program that calls for a standardized training and credentialing process. It will give advocates increased stature when collaborating with other medical and legal professionals, said Denise Lang, coordinator of the Morris County Sexual Assault Center and primary trainer for the county’s Sexual Assault Response Team.

The sexual assault team is part of the Atlantic Health Systems, which operates

“Until now, the training curriculum was adjusted at the discretion of the county doing the training,” Lang said. “The new guidelines will ensure that every county is providing the same baseline training, which means increased efficiency and responsiveness to victims and positions New Jersey confidential advocates as somewhat elite members nationally.” 

The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced the new training program recently. It will take place on Wednesday evenings for 10 weeks.

The training, held at 95 Mt. Kemble Ave. in Morristown (the medical center's Rehab Institute), is free but advocates need to be willing to make a commitment to take several 12-hour monthly shifts when they will be on-call to respond to victims. Each volunteer will also need to pass a security background check.

Any volunteer must be at least 18 years old and have both a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation.

Topics covered will include crisis intervention, legal rights, post traumatic stress disorder, advocacy, domestic violence and partner assault, suicide assessment, human trafficking, medical treatment and consent issues, and answering hotline calls.

The Sexual Assault Response Team, a collaboration between the Morris County Sexual Assault Center and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and responds to all Morris County hospitals. Comprised of the advocate, law enforcement, and a forensic nurse, the team is able to provide assistance to anyone ages 13 years or older who has been the victim of any type of sexual assault.

For information regarding the Morris County training, call Lang or Michael Kotch at 973-971-4754.

In Morris County, the number of reported rapes rose from 33 in 2008 to 37 in 2009, according to New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports.

At April’s Demin Day ceremony, which highlighted stories of rape victims and their recoveries, Lang said some disturbing new trends are emerging.

First, the number of people of both sexes who are reporting being the victim sexual violence before age 18 is increasing. The ratio was one out of five women, and one out of seven men, she said.

New statistics show that one out of three women and one out of five men are now reporting sexual violence before age 18, she said.

The rise in the reports of sexual violence can be linked to the rise in bullying incidents and increased teen sexting, the use of text messaging to send nude or semi-nude photos to others, she said.

There is also a rising number of reported cases of gang rape, she said.

Since 2006, New Jersey has participated in a pilot program sponsored by the federal Centers for Disease Control that focuses on improving the ability to perform primary rape prevention work.

The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault participated in the creation of the 2010- 2020 New Jersey Sexual Violence Prevention Plan, which set out six major goals: develop community connectedness, encourage bystander intervention, support gender equality and healthy social norms, cultivate empathy and attachment, promote policies to protect disabled and incarcerated populations and expand media literacy skills.

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