“We have probably one to two sexual assaults a week in Niagara County,” said Mary Brennan Taylor, Vice President of Programs for YWCA of the Niagara Frontier, during an update with County Chairman Becky Wydysh.
Brennan reassured community members that during this crisis “victims are being treated in the same way that they would have before this awful pandemic started.” She explained, “There shouldn’t be any fear on part of the victim. If someone has been sexually assaulted, they should not fear coming forward to say: I don’t know if I’m going to be believed.”
Additionally, the longtime women’s advocate noted, “I can tell you, from the District Attorney’s Office, to law enforcement, to the YWCA, we believe victims. We work with them very, very closely, and that has not changed during this pandemic.” According to Brennan, these groups meet quarterly as to address new and innovative strategies to be a more effective resource to those victimized by sexual assault.
Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek cited pride with advancements in helping sexual assault victims in Niagara County. “I’m so proud of our sexual assault team because of how proactive the team has been.” She added, “We’ve come so far in just the last year, ensuring all of our law enforcement are trauma trained.”
On the importance of initiatives for broadscale training beneath her term as District Attorney, Wojtaszek said, “Sometimes it isn’t always a detective who is on scene first, it’s a Road Patrol Officer and they need to understand the dynamic. They need to respond appropriately to minimize trauma to the victim.
Also, Molly Maigret, RN and ‘SANE’ nurse (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) at Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport was brought in via phone call, sharing information on how a victim of sexual assault is treated. “When a sexual assault victim reports to an E.R. they are actually a walking crime scene. They have the evidence on them while also being in need of medical care.”
The healthcare professional made clear, “All the services for this at the hospital are free. I want to make sure that everyone knows that. Usually, when you go to the E.R. that is one of the big fears, the cost, but no hospital is allowed to bill the victim of sexual assault because they are the victim of a crime.”