Volunteers walk for sexual assault awareness | SummitDaily.com

Volunteers walk for sexual assault awareness

ROBERT ALLEN
summit daily news

Summit Daily/Rober Allen

BRECKENRIDGE ” Some 43 volunteers walked a roughly mile-long loop in Breckenridge on Thursday to support sexual assault awareness and raise funds for a local examiner program.

“It impacts every population in Summit County,” said J.J. Hulsebus, a nurse with the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center Emergency Department in Frisco. “The numbers through the past few years have shown that sexual assault is very under-reported, whether for embarrassment (or social stigmas).”

Between the walk and a silent auction at Lucha Colorado Cantina, the fundraising efforts garnered $3,350, she said.

Hulsebus will run the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, which is to begin this summer. She said it should make people more “willing to come out and reach out for that help.”

“Nationwide, only about 16 percent of all these cases are reported,” she said.

The program ” to include eight nurses on call 24/7 ” involves training for forensic evidence collection and to testify at trials as expert witnesses.

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Costs are $240,000 for the first year and $90,000 per year to keep the program running.

Hulsebus said costs include training, special equipment and an area designated to protect evidence. The hospital provides some support, but the Summit Medical Center Health Foundation is actively seeking donations.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said the SANE program makes the process easier for victims. He said his office filed between 30 and 35 sex-assault felony charges each year over the past few years.

He said the number of cases dipped after the case against basketball star Kobe Bryant ” on charges of felony sexual assault against a 19-year-old at Cordillera near Edwards ” was dismissed in 2004.

Hurlbert had requested the dismissal after the woman decided not to testify.

“I think victims were afraid they would be treated like the victim in the Kobe case,” Hurlbert said, alluding to the national media circus that surrounded the case.

About 100 sexual assault cases overall occur within the Fifth Judicial District each year, according to a fact sheet from the Summit Medical Center Health Foundation.

President Obama earlier this month proclaimed April as National Sexual Assault Awareness month. The statement cited a recent study that 18 percent of women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime, according to whitehouse.gov.

The nearest SANE programs currently in operation are in Denver and Glenwood Springs.

The one at Summit Medical Center is to serve Summit as well as Lake, Eagle and Clear Creek counties.

It is a collaboration between local law enforcement and Advocates for Victims of Assault, according to the SMC Health Foundation.

To make a donation, contact Mary Winston with the foundation at (970) 668-9755.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.