Vermonters gather to improve response to sexual assault

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Law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, and other professionals who serve sexual assault victims in Vermont attended training in Bolton Friday to improve their response. 

“They are here because they want to make sure they create the sort of environment where people feel comfortable, that is trauma-informed,” said Cara Cookson, Victim Assistance Program Director at the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.

It’s part of annual training provided by the Center for Crime Victim Services. Dr. Kimberly Lonsway, a national expert on sexual assault, shared her #Startbybelieving philosophy, stressing the importance of responding when people come forward. 

“Whether you’re a professional or a friend or family member, how you respond in that moment is absolutely critical for how that victim is going to survive and thrive,” said Dr. Kimberly Lonsway, Research Director at End Violence Against Women International. “Take a deep breath, start by believing and then just be willing to listen and offer whatever help they need. They need options, not our opinions.”

With sexual assault allegations making national headlines, professionals want to assure Vermonters they’ll get the help they need. 

“I think it’s the continued reminder to stay fair and impartial, to continue to do thorough investigations,” said Burlington Police Sgt. Brian LaBarge, director of the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations. “We deal with sex crimes in Chittenden County and this stuff everyday, our main focus is on justice for the victim but also providing them with the needed services to be able to recover.”

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