Cerritos College
Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Working with trafficked survivors

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What is most disturbing about sexual assault victims is that the age of any single one can range from as old as 30 to as young as 1 month. If the latter is the case then it is for either law enforcement or the parents to decide how to proceed.

Forensic Nurse Specialist Jennifer Rivera was invited by Cerritos College to speak on the procedure involved while caring for trafficked individuals in an online session held on Jan. 20.

Hosted alongside Campus Victim’s Advocate Angel Gray, SART Examinations 101 officially hit off with around 25 participants.

As a forensic nurse, Rivera is responsible for performing comprehensive medical forensic examinations for victims of sexual assault—and as such, is on a 24-hour on-call basis. To boot, she also provides expert witness testimony in court.

“Of course, there are several policies in the criminal justice system that are difficult to surmount, even as a professional forensic examiner.”

“However, a quality exam and evidence collection can counteract so many negative experiences that people can be subjected to in court,” said Rivera.

The company which she referred to is Forensic Nurse Specialists, Inc., whose mission is to provide state-of-the-art forensic medical examinations for sexual assault victims as well as present professional witness testimony like mentioned before.

The often most confusing constants relating to what type of services that FNS present are the VAWA and “Usual” SART exams.

Without the technical language, it is essentially an exam performed without police involvement and another that is required to have the authority of the law involved.

More specifically, VAWA was brought about by the Violence Against Women’s Act of 2012—according to Rivera, because these individuals are unsure as to what sort of action to take and wish to collect evidence.

Although these types of actions can make law enforcement doubtful of the truthfulness behind such a case if victims take too long.

Short for Sexual Assault Response Team, SART is the multidisciplinary model between authorities like medical experts and law enforcement to satisfy the justice system’s forensic requirement and the needs of the sexual assault victim.

Compared to the “Usual” SART exam, VAWA is rare, given that most victims will file a report.

Although statistically speaking, only 10 percent of victims come forth to make a report—trepidation formed by preconceived notions of disbelief keeping them from interacting with the proper authorities.

“Sexual assault is never anyone’s fault, nothing anyone does condones sexual violence. I always strongly suggest that my Patients follow up with the free counseling from the Rape Crisis Centers,” said Rivera.

The typical SART exam is a medium of—or rather stepping stone toward—justice and it does so by following California state protocol.

Whether it is swabbing and labeling each evidence type, the history of an article of clothing, or taking pictures of the victim’s figure, the SART exam ensures that nothing is left unmarked.

The most significant aspect of SART Examinations 101 was the revelation that even forensic analysis cannot win victim justice and that personal bias plays a major factor.

Anyone who meets someone affected by sexual violence should go against this stereotype and direct them to the appropriate authorities.

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About the Contributor
Matthew Espinosa, Staff Writer
Matthew Espinosa is a staff writer for Talon Marks. His major is Journalism. He enjoys playing Halo and reading science fiction in his downtime. He's unclear as to where he will transfer after Cerritos.
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