MSCASA’s Own, Shalotta Sharp, Quoted for Article by Daily News Journal
Television shows and media give a false representation of sexual assault victims with overly dramatized characters and injuries, according to one presenter at a special training session.
On television, victims are shown as emotionally devastated, bloodied and bruised, said Shalotta Sharp, the statewide sexual assault nurse examiner and sexual assault response team coordinator for Mississippi.
Victims are as varied as their assaulters, less than 2 percent have injuries that need treatment and less than 1 percent need hospitalization, Sharp said.
“They look just like the rest of us,” Sharp said, challenging stereotypes of what rape victims and perpetrators look like to the general public.
Sharp was the first presenter in a training day for members of the law enforcement, first responders and medical communities, district attorneys, and victim advocates to learn how to respond better to sexual assault cases.
Attendees, who gathered at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital on Thursday, heard presentations about how trauma impacts victims and how that manifests later in life, how technology and social media have changed the meaning of relationships, and other topics during the six-hour training.
“I thought it was very informative for SANE nurses to hear from Shalotta Sharp,” Murfreesboro Police Detective Tommy Roberts said after the training.
As an investigator, Roberts said he enjoyed the presentation from Kendall Stoner, TBI analyst, forensic biology unit. Stoner presented on evidence-based practice in forensic patient care and evidence collection.
During the morning session, Sharp shared her story of the first “rape victim” after drawing the short straw in an emergency room in Alabama.
“I have no detailed memory of that and I’m glad … We treated her horribly,” she said.
Sharp said the hospital gave no support to the young woman and neither did the local police.
The treatment of victims is changing thanks to training like the one held Thursday, which was for members multi-disciplinary teams that were developed to improve service to victims of sexual assault.
Rutherford County’s SART is made up of advocates from the Domestic Violence Program, law enforcement and specially trained health care professionals. These team members provide a coordinated, efficient and supportive response to victims.
Giving support to victims is important because less than 50 percent of sexual assaults are reported, according to statistics Sharp cited from the Department of Justice.
“When our victims don’t get the help they need end up with problems in society,” Sharp said.
The lack of reporting translates to a lack in treatment. With one rape every two minutes it means there are 21,600 per month and 259,200 per year with half of the victims not getting the support they need to deal with the trauma, Sharp said.
“We are finding out from you (the counselors and advocates) that people come in and say, ‘I was sexually assaulted at this age,’” Sharp said, linking unreported assaults to drug and alcohol abuse and other crimes.
Sharp also challenged stereotypes of rapists, saying they aren’t all creepy looking guys in trench coats or hooded sweatshirts.
“Most of the people we know are nice people … We don’t want to think we know someone who could do this,” Sharp said.
She said rapists aren’t drunks who will never do it again and rapes aren’t caused by miscommunication or regret.
Understanding both victims and perpetrators can help SART members investigate and prosecute the crimes, Sharp said.
Reach Michelle Willard at 615-278-5164, on Twitter @MichWillard or Rutherford County Business News on Facebook at facebook.com/DNJBusiness.
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