Team formed in Devils Lake to aid sexual abuse victims

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor

Melandie Deplazes from Devils Lake recently returned from the Sixth Annual National SART Conference in Austin, Tex.

Deplazes is an employee of SAAF (Safe Alternatives for Abused Families), which is located near Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake.

SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) is currently comprised of police, sheriff, counselors and family planning officals on a local level, and advocates from SAAF.

“What we’re looking for is a better understanding of the functions of a SART team and how to better facilitate and coordinate it,” says Deplazes.

“We’re in the process of establishing a team here to help victims of sexual assault.”

Deplazes says victims often are reluctant to press charges or have difficulty repeating what happened to them because the experience is so traumatic.

The idea of having a full, complete response team here is to better collaborate and coordinate the process when an assault happens.

With a smooth, free-flowing process in place, Deplazes is hoping more victims will step up and a better rate of prosecution will result.

“We’re looking for more community involvement and participation,” adds Deplazes. “We’d encourage people to donate items to the victim.”

She also added that sexual assault survivors could play a vital role in expanding the services of the SART team, too.

Input and shared experiences could prove invaluable.

The plans that Deplazes described have been in the making for nearly a year now.

She’s focusing on setting up a procedure that could involve all the agencies involved in the process.

“What we’re looking for is support,” she added. “From the community and whomever might like to help out.”