With so many crime shows on TV, many people have a warped reality of the symptoms of sexual assault. the sexual assault training workshop - sponsored by the Meridian Police Department, Wesley House, and the Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault and hosted at Wesley House - aims to teach those who are the first to interact with victims directly what to look for to be able to identify sexual assault.
Shalotta Sharp, a registered nurse and a sexual assault nurse examiner who is instructing the workshops, tells us what officials need to look for. "The typical victim does not have a lot of physical injuries. They've experienced a significant psychological trauma. They may have memory lapses. Most of the time they know their perpetrators; they've had a relationship with their perpetrator. They didn't expect to be a victim of a sexual assault."
The workshops teach first respondents how to ask the tough questions.
"Victims present to law enforcement or DHS, they may present as a physical assault, and it's very uncomfortable to ask somebody about a sex crime or a sexual assault, so we teach them how to transition into asking them about sexual assault and pursuing that investigation as well," Sharp says.
The emphasis with first respondents is important, because how the respondents interact with victims often times makes up a victim's mind of what to do next.
"They will determine, based on how you treat them, and how your conversation goes with them, they'll make a determination at that point whether or not they want to go forward with it and possibly prosecute or seek other help or not," Ginger Grissom, executive director of Wesley House, tells us. "And so, that's why it's so important that we take the blinders off and just talk about it."
The workshops will meet once a month through November.