GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The 9th Judicial District attorney hopes to revive a program that, until last year, offered a safe, nonthreatening way for rape victims to obtain a medical examination and an interview with a nurse about the circumstances of the rape.
The SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Program, once operated by Valley View Hospital, was intended to give rape victims a place to go for an examination that is not intimidating or frightening.
But, according to DA Sherry Caloia and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, the program closed down for financial reasons, despite what Caloia said is a continuing need. That left the nearest SANE facilities in Summit and Mesa counties.
So now Caloia and other state and local officials are working to set up a new organization, this one called Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART).
Caloia said the idea is for each community to be involved in the effort, which probably will be centrally located in Glenwood Springs to provide equal traveling time for the more remote towns, such as Aspen and Parachute.
"I think this is very needed in this community," Caloia said, not only to give victims an easier time of it immediately after an assault, but also to proved skilled nursing personnel who know what to look for and who can testify in court if needed.
So she started calling other law enforcement, social service and women's support agencies, to talk about SART, which is backed by the state Division of Criminal Justice.
At a meeting last month, she said, participants came from a number of groups and organizations, and "they were all on board."
Caloia wrote in an email that the DA's office handled a dozen cases of sexual assault on adults in 2012, but she noted that there are Eagle County residents of this valley who are not included in that number.
Plus, she wrote, "There are many more sexual assaults that go unreported, [and] many more juvenile victim cases that this [number] does not include."
Her office, Caloia said, has applied for a state grant of $38,000 from the state Division of Criminal Justice, which she said is to cover the salary of a program coordinator.
"This is only for the coordination of the effort, to get it up and running," she said, explaining that towns and agencies from Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties are expected to sign up.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario echoed Caloia's feeling, declaring in an email, "There is, and has been, a need for this program in the valley."
With the only SANE nurses working either in Grand Junction or Frisco, Vallario continued, "In my opinion, that just adds to the trauma of the victims" to have to travel so far.
Vallario noted that his office and other police departments had paid the cost of the SANE examinations in the past, and said he, for one, would do so again.
"It is a program that the community needs and law enforcement needs in order to be more successful with convicting the perpetrators," Vallario wrote.