OCO News

Nearly $1 Million Grant will Enhance Services to Survivors of Sexual Assault

Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families has been awarded a 3-year, $950,000 grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) under the Rural Program. The funding will sustain and expand critical services needed for survivors of sexual and domestic violence in the rural areas of Oswego County.

“SAF has been fortunate enough to receive funding through OVW’s Rural Grant Program since 2010. That funding has allowed us to enhance the safety of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and trafficking in some of the most rural and geographically isolated areas of our county while addressing their unique needs and barriers to accessing services, such as isolation and lack of transportation and anonymity,” said Senior Program Manager of Quality and Education Sara Carmichael. “However, SAF’s work with survivors, along with our collaboration with community partners, led to conversations regarding the unmet needs of survivors of sexual assault, particularly survivors of non-intimate partner sexual assault, sex trafficking, and adult survivors of child sex abuse.”

SAF has seen an increase in adult survivors residing in the program’s domestic violence shelter identifying as a survivor of sexual assault, a survivor of child sex abuse, or both. “We’re also seeing survivors report multiple instances of sexual assault at the hands of multiple perpetrators over the course of their lifetime and they’re carrying around the weight of all that trauma,” said Carmichael.

As a result, SAF, in collaboration with community partners, decided to take things in a different direction when it came time to re-apply for funding through the Rural Grant Program and were awarded more money than previous years in order to focus primarily on developing, enlarging, and strengthening programs to address the needs of sexual assault survivors. Funding through the Rural Grant Program will allow SAF to provide survivor-centered services in rural areas of the county, including crisis intervention, advocacy, accompaniment, therapy, transportation, and emergency shelter. Funding will also increase legal and medical advocacy for survivors and allow for prevention education, training, and outreach.

“We’re excited that this funding will give us the opportunity to continue providing prevention education in some of the rural school districts and it will allow us to collaborate with the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York in the coming months to provide enhanced legal assistance to survivors,” said Carmichael. “This funding is also critical to help support positions that will work with survivors of both domestic and sexual violence at our emergency shelter where we see such a high level of need.”

Funding will also enhance the coordinated community response to survivors of sexual assault through the Domestic Violence Coalition of Oswego County (DVCOC). DVCOC began in 1990 with OCO, the Oswego County Department of Social Services, the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office, representatives from various law enforcement agencies, and Oswego County Family Court. Since then, DVCOC has expanded to include representatives from Integrated Domestic Violence Court, BMEN – Oswego County’s batterer accountability program, Oswego Hospital, the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, and the local college and university. The coalition meets bi-monthly to review legislation, policy, prevention efforts in the community and the response to survivors from law enforcement, courts, and providers in the community.

In the accompanying photo, seated clockwise from left, are DVCOC members: Oswego County Assistant District Attorney Joseph Doyle, SAF Program Manager Sara Carmichael, Oswego County Child Advocacy Center Advocate Brittney Alton, Oswego Hospital SANE Nurse Kim Hyde, New York State Police Investigator Charlotte Yerdon, Oswego County Probation Officer Brian Katzman, Oswego County Probation Supervisor Margaret Fitzgibbons, SAF Program Manager Linda Parry, Oswego County Integrated Domestic Violence Court Case Manager Samantha Cleveland, SAF Senior Advocate Megan West, and Oswego County Child Protective Services Caseworker Jacqueline Cowher.

“This funding will allow us to create a subcommittee within the coalition that will focus specifically on addressing sexual assault in the rural communities,” said Carmichael. “We’re hoping to not only increase awareness of sexual assault in those rural communities but increase awareness of the services available to survivors so they can get the help and the support they need and deserve.”

Funding through the Rural Grant Program will also allow SAF and the Domestic Violence Coalition to bring in a national expert to train law enforcement on Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI), a science and practice-based way of interviewing victims that takes into consideration the impact of trauma and memory. “Our goal is to not only increase participation in the criminal justice system but increase satisfaction by sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system,” said Carmichael.

If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, or stalking, please call SAF’s Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for more than 40 years.

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