Niagara Gazette — When it comes to treating, healing, and protecting the rights of sexual assault victims in Niagara County, a specialized team provides all of the care and resources possible.
The Sexual Assault Response Team program (SART) is a collaboration between law enforcement, legal aid, hospital care, and rape crisis advocates in Niagara County, which provides compassionate and comprehensive care for victims.
The multi-disciplinary association ensures that no matter how a rape victim comes forward, they can receive all of the services offered, explained Molly Maigret, who is a sexual assault nurse examiner at Eastern Niagara Hospital-Lockport.
“If someone comes to a police department to report a rape, law enforcement will usually escort them to the hospital for treatment,” Maigret said. “Vice versa, if they come to the hospital first and are in distress or fear, we can help contact law enforcement.”
Victims don’t have to report their cases unless a weapon was used but about 95 percent of patients who come in do wish to follow through with pressing charges, Maigret said.
Between all five hospitals in Niagara County, Maigret says there is at least one sexual assault victim coming in for treatment per week. Statistically, only one in 10 sexual assaults is reported.
ENH-Lockport has a specially designated room for male and female sexual assault victims away from the chaos of the emergency room.
“We refer to it as the SANE room, for sexual assault nurse examining room,” Maigret explained. “Our team of specially trained SANE nurses do a medical examination, as well as a forensic examination for DNA evidence.”
Lockport’s staff of three SANE nurses is also trained to attend court trial hearings and testify on behalf of victims.
All treatment including the exams is free to victims under the federal Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.