Our speaker, Kristen Houlton Sukura is the Executive Director of the Sexual Violence Center, in Minneapolis. SVC supports people living in Hennepin, Carver and Scott Counties, who have been affected by sexual violence at any time in their lives, from their personal past to the present. They do not turn away people outside these counties, but will find an advocacy center closer to where people live, because those offices are likely to know more about local support services for victims of assault. Please know that SVC is eager to get its name out and its story told. Everyone knows that if your house is on fire, you call 911 for help. Not enough people know there is a number they can call if they or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault. (SVC 24-hour support line: 612.871.5111 or 952.448.5425)
To begin, there is a good overview of services the SVC provides on its website: https://www.sexualviolencecenter.org/about-us/ The following page defines common terms used in this discussion: https://www.rainn.org/types-sexual-violence
To set a few parameters, it is true that most adult victims identify as female and most assaults are perpetuated by people who identify as male but that is not always the case at all. The SVC is against all forms of assault; it doesn’t matter who the aggressor is. It is also true that 8 out of 10 sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement. The following graphic shows the imbalance: http://184.108.40.206/~nyscasa1/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/stats-triangle1.png
SVC services are based on one belief: if a crime comes into your life, you have a right to be believed, to have someone stand with you. People who can’t find the support they need to deal with the trauma often struggle to heal, feeling “People don’t believe me”. SVC advocates work hard to overcome this barrier to healing. They want to work with more law enforcement and other agencies so that more people feel comfortable accessing the support and social services they need. Advocates also want other agencies, including law enforcement agencies, to learn to refer victims to SVC advocates.
Every victim of sexual assault in MN has a right to go to a hospital and receive free medical care. SVC works with 11 hospitals, including 7 in Hennepin County, to make sure people get the care they need. SVC only does not work with University Hospitals because the U has the Aurora Center, another advocacy center, on campus.
Data from Hennepin County indicates that 50% of people who go to the hospital after sexual assault file a police report at that time. Others may decide to do it later. Nationwide, of 100 rapes 25% get reported to the police. This is a crime that is still in the shadows because of under-reporting due to cultural and social norms. Reporting is something SVC wants more victims/survivors to choose. Even though some people may never want to report, SVC wants the process to be as safe and supportive as possible. SVC advocates work hard with their partners in law enforcement to help them work with and to support victims of criminal sexual conduct.
Evidence samples taken at the hospital exam are labeled “Do not Test” until the victim files a police report. Different locations allow different amounts of time, but typically evidence will be held by the hospital while a victim decides whether to report for a minimum of 30 days. At that point the victim will get a call asking if they want the tests held longer. Anniversary dates seem to trigger decision making. There is a statute of limitations which depends on the level of the offense, so that is also a varying window. Tests are done by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, not by the local police lab. Once a police report is made, the evidence goes to the BCA for testing. The BCA produces a report that goes back to the police department that is handling the victim’s case, and investigators in that department will determine if the case should be referred to the County Attorney for charging. In many cases, there just may not be enough evidence to present to a jury. Often a message comes back “We believe that this thing happened to you. We believe you. But with the evidence we can find, we’re not confident of convincing a jury. ”Another impacting fact is there often is no evidence of physical forcing because there has been no physical force. 85% of the victims know their aggressor and the aggressors take advantage of that. The incident may have involved drugs; 60% of the victims in Hennepin County who accessed a forensic exam after the assault were inebriated at the time of the assault. A lawyer hopes for credible witness testimony, but with a high degree of inebriation, memory may not be perfect.City Attorney Sarah Becker commented that 50% of the cases are charged for “less than” the initial complaint suggests the charge should be. She pointed out that delayed reporting is a factor because bruising or tearing have healed.SVC advocates see their function as offering peer counseling, not therapy. SVC advocates work to support many victims who struggle to believe it was not their fault they were targeted.
Advocates are largely protected from subpoena and unlikely to to called to testify in court. This is particularly important when someone is afraid to report assault because they are undocumented, because they were working as a sex worker at the time of the assault, because they are under age, because they were drunk, the SVC advocate is a safe person to talk to. They won’t have to share their story. By statute SVC staff are called “counselors”, but use the term “Advocate” because they do more than counseling.
SVC staff work in several ways including over the phone. They can work in person providing 10 sessions free of charge. They provide services not available from therapists and counselors such as help obtaining restraining orders, finding funding for needed medical services, support with navigating the system. Advocates work creatively to meet the needs of victims who come to them, trying different approaches. They’ve discovered that having police interview a victim at the SVC office is more comfortable for some victims than going to a police unit would be. Advocates will do anything they can that helps people feel supported. One service that has worked well is for an advocate to offer phone counseling anonymously, asking victims to please not tell their name, the assailant’s name, and so on. Just getting people to talk is the best way to build the kind of trust that is necessary to help people move on to the next step, whatever that may be. If a caller says, “I’m not going to report this.” the counselor can say to them, “I believe you. I’m not going to force you …. Let’s talk this through. I want to talk to you and tell you what your options are and how to be safe.” Ms Sukura is comfortable saying “Our model works. People are terrified because they don’t know what to do, and that’s because no one ever talks about it.”SVC offers its services in several unusual places, including prisons and half-way houses, in schools with students age 12-17 — an age when transportation and after school responsibilities make it tough for high school students to get to the center. Moreover, young people people are very nervous about the effect this is going to have on their parents. Beyond being hurt themselves, they don’t want to hurt their parents. This is another high value service SVC provides : working with friends and family members. An assault is not just on one person but on everyone who cares about that person. They have had calls where someone may say, “This isn’t about me. It’s my niece. She told me and I don’t know what do do about this.”At the other end of life, some people do not talk until years later. SVC gets calls from nursing homes. Sometimes it is about something that happened there, but sometimes it’s about something that happened 50 or 60 years earlier. One woman commented that she could see how this affected her through her whole life, but there was no one to talk to.
SVC organizes support groups because in groups you see that others are as affected as you are. One pair that stands out in her memory was unlikely: a 16 year old and a 60 year old man. What they had in common was the violence of the assault, each one did understand that issue better than anyone else in the room.That brings up a very important concept: if someone discloses to you, they trust you. It’s a sacred trust.QUESTION: Reports suggest that 15% of the victims are male. Is that average? ANSWER:. SVC may be reporting a higher percentage of male victims because they work in the prisons. Male victims tend to not want to call us. It’s very hard to get men to talk in front of other men. If you look on the SVC website, https://www.sexualviolencecenter.org/ you’ll see that we have male- identified advocates, trans-gender advocates, language and culturally specific support services and advocates. Our job is to get victims to the support they need, even if it isn’t directly from SVC. SVC also works with Isuroon, a Somali women’s empowerment organization to better support refugees; they have learned that 25% of refugees report having suffered sexual violence. Refugees are survivors of many things; we want them to know we offer support here.
Second Precinct officers made several outstanding arrests including a 2nd degree assault on pizza delivery person who parked in someone else’s spot. The AP, who pulled a knife on the delivery person, was located and arrested. A 1st degree domestic assault resulted in arrest of the ex-boyfriend who hit his former girlfriend in the head with a bat and cut her with a knife. A Burglary of Dwelling victim came home and found 2 suspects in his apartment. They left when he confronted them but he called 911 when he spotted them returning to the apartment complex. Three were arrested. Officers stopped a speeding vehicle at Central and University on 8-11. The driver appeared impaired and was asked to step out of the vehicle, and when she did, suspected narcotics fell from her lap; two suspects were arrested.
Sgt. Carter also gave a report on the Second Precinct Community Response Team performance to date: 34 guns seized, almost $160K drug money seized; 10 vehicles seized; 41 felony complaints were charged; 79 felony/gross misdemeanor charged; 30 community complaint address related search warrants acted on; the total number of search warrants or court orders signed or served is 119
Counterfeit money is being passed again in NE Minneapolis.
Sgt. Carter is always interested in reports on suspicious activity, especially drug activity, and knows people do know when something seems wrong. Typically this is when you see many people entering an address or meeting with a car in the street and leaving quickly over the course of a day. He asks Second Precinct residents that, if they see this kind of activity, do NOT call 911. Instead, call the Precinct and leave a message for Sgt Carter 612.673.5702.
No updates on Kevin Foster, Johnny Hall, Dae Nisell, Ashley Sage (doing well on her drug court plan!)
Meeting was adjourned (about) 7:20