MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Hennepin County leaders came together Wednesday to tackle the emotional topic.
A variety of groups collaborated to think of ways the county can improve the way sexual violence is handled. The plans focus on better addressing the crime of sexual assault while also taking care of the needs of survivors.
Participating team members presented the first Hennepin County Sexual Assault Response Protocol, which establishes guidelines for medical professionals, law enforcement, prosecutors and advocates on how to handle and investigate sexual assault cases.
Organizers hope that increased communication between the agencies will give victims and survivors of sexual assault a path to recovery, which includes making the criminal justice system more open and available, especially for those in marginalized communities.
The stigma of sexual assault remains a barrier when it comes to reporting crimes. On average, Hennepin County Medical Center conducts more than 800 sexual assault exams every year, but last year, only 65 percent of those victims reported their assault to law enforcement.
While that is an increase from the previous year, advocates hope the new protocol increases trust in the system throughout Hennepin County.
The program was made possible through federal STOP Violence Against Women Act grant funds.