Given the headlines in recent months concerning college sexual assault cases, it’s clear the time has come to seriously examine the way adult sexual assault cases are handled from start to finish in Rhode Island. We’re dealing with a fragmented system that needs our attention.
Most sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement, and even among reported cases, most will never be successfully prosecuted. This reality has been a long-standing source of frustration for survivors, victim advocates, and members of the criminal justice system. As more victims come forward, attention to the issue of sexual assault has increased and has placed the entire reporting and investigation process under scrutiny.
Day One has worked closely with law enforcement and other agencies around the state to develop an effective, coordinated response to child sexual abuse with our Children’s Advocacy Center. Cases are tracked, monitored, and followed up on long after the initial disclosure. We are currently applying the same approach to the burgeoning issue of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). It’s evident we need the same type of coordinated system to address adult sexual assault in our state.
To start the process, Day One is coordinating a specialized task force to address adult sexual assault in Rhode Island that includes law enforcement, prosecution, Day One advocates, medical professionals, and higher education representatives. A sexual assault survivor may have contact with many different agencies. This team will be responsible for the oversight of adult sexual assault cases from the initial report to investigation and prosecution to trauma-informed clinical treatment and support for the victim.
Through this task force, we aim to:
- Establish a comprehensive and collaborative multi-disciplinary team approach to dealing with adult sexual assault cases statewide
- Develop and implement policies and protocols using a best practices approach to investigation and prosecution
- Improve response rate to sexual assault victims in urgent need of services
- Ensure that an efficient system of response is accessible to all victims
There is currently no consistent, centralized means of tracking of sexual assault data in Rhode Island. Without effective tracking, many of these cases cannot be properly monitored and followed up on. We know that, based on successful models in other states, a positive experience during initial reporting creates an environment where victims feel supported and believed, and decreases re-traumatization.
We owe it to our students and to our community to provide the best possible response to all sexual assaults. Without that, we are sending a message not to bother reporting this crime, a message that has already been sent too often in Rhode Island.