Sexual Assault Response Team forming in Ninth Judicial District

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Kelley Cox / Post Independent
Staff Photo |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Tracy Trulove Young — the name does not conjure images that correspond to the difficult, often tragic circumstances associated with sexual assault by one adult against another.

But that’s the work she does, and has been doing since being hired in May to put together a new facet of law enforcement activity here.

Young, 46, is coordinator of the still-forming Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) at the office of Ninth Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia.

Young’s job is to bring together disparate elements in the judicial district’s law enforcement community to work with victims of sexual assault, primarily among adults both in terms of the victim’s own mental stability and the effort to build a winnable case against the perpetrator of the assault.

And while she admits that her name might not fit her job description in some people’s eyes, she counters that her dedication to the work is what counts.

“My role is to take this program and … well … make it happen,” she said simply on Aug. 15, during an interview with the Post Independent.

Young is a long-time resident of this area, having moved to Carbondale at the age of 7 from her home town of Redondo Beach, Calif.

She graduated from Roaring Fork High School in 1985, and from Colorado State University in 1989 with degrees in journalism and public relations.

Since then, however, her life has taken some surprising turns, including a stint for the marketing department of Walt Disney Attractions in Orlando, Fla., then for a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and then as associate development director with the Aspen Institute in Aspen.

Along the way she got married and had three children, who today range in age from 9 to 14, and started pining for her old haunts, which is what steered her toward the Aspen Institute job in 2008.

“I came home,” she explained. “I was getting pretty homesick.” She said she wanted to be near her family again, and to try to make a living at her favorite pastime — photography.

“I did mostly weddings and portraits,” she said, adding that while it was not making her rich, she was earning “enough for fun.”

Earlier this year, following her divorce in 2012, she was looking for a more stable kind of work when she learned of the job for the DA’s office, which is being funded by a state grant.

The job is only 20 hours per week, at $20 per hour, and a large part of Young’s work is to conduct meetings, bringing together the different team members to hammer out the details of getting the SART up and running.

Heavy caseload

The need for the SART, she said, is seen in the statistics. The DA’s office currently has 18 sexual assault cases open, seven on the juvenile docket and 11 in adult court. In addition, she said, there are six cases under investigation, which may or may not end up in court.

Caloia told the Post Independent on Aug. 15 that sexual assault cases currently come up at a rate of one a week, whether juvenile or adult.

Juvenile cases typically are handled by the Riverbridge Regional Center, which deals with child abuse and sexual assault cases and has worked with hundreds of children since it was started in 2007.

But in adult sexual assault cases, victims have lately seen only the police officers who respond to the calls, a nurse or a doctor who conducts a medical exam, and the prosecutors who try to jail the perpetrators. Young hopes to add a softer, more caring stage to that schedule of events.

For one thing, she said, it is her hope to revive the SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) program that, until last year, was managed by Valley View Hospital nurse Kelly Hill, who performed as the nurse and also wrote grant applications to pay the program’s costs.

The program, according to the website of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), involves specialized training, education and clinical preparation. The result, according to the IAFN, is a nurse who “cares for patients who have been victims of sexual assault and abuse,” and works with health care and law enforcement professionals to develop a “plan of care” for the victim and to provide evidence to be used to prosecute the perpetrator.

The hospital discontinued the program due to logistical problems, according to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, who had been a supporter of the SANE program since it started “about 10-12 years ago,” he told the Post Independent on Friday, explaining that the SANE certification and training requirements made it a strain on the hospital’s resources.

“Their [position] was, it was a difficult program to maintain,” he recalled, particularly since state regulations required a certain level of practice and training to keep such programs functioning.

“We did not have, fortunately, enough sexual assault cases for them [the hospital] to maintain those skills,” Vallario recalled, so the hospital ended its SANE program.

Over the past few months, Vallario said, he has been working with Caloia to get the SART program under way as a first step toward upping the ante concerning sexual assault cases and the victims involved.

“The intent is to do something more for sexual assault victims,” Vallario said, noting that Caloia, Young and the DA’s office are taking the lead. “I see it as an additional tool that we haven’t had [recently].”

And an important adjunct to the SART, Vallario said, would be the revival of a SANE program, “whether it’s in the same form or not,”

He said there are “other models out there” that a local program might follow, rather than fall back to reliance on Valley View Hospital.

Concerning both SART and SANE, Vallario concluded, “I wish her [Young] the best of luck, and we’re going to do everything we can to make this happen.”

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