Frontline features a different rape crisis and recovery center in Maryland each quarter. We ask them five questions in honor of the 1 in 5 women who are survivors of rape in their lifetime.
The following questions were answered by Mark Arsenault, the Executive Director of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center at Dimensions Health Care in Prince George's County.
Tell us about your program and the issues it tackles.
Our program, which is located in Prince George’s Hospital Center, was first established over 40 years ago as the Sexual Assault Center
(SAC). In 2010, SAC changed its name to the DV/SAC to reflect the expanded services provided to all patients of Prince George’s Hospital Center with indicators of domestic violence.
We are the only hospital-based sexual assault and sexual abuse program in the state to provide comprehensive sexual violence support services under one roof. This unique model allows us to further promote the physical and emotional well-being of victims in Prince George’s County by seamlessly treating their immediate medical and psychological injuries as part of our continuum of care.
Our sexual assault services include forensic examinations by FNEs, 24/7 crisis counseling, follow-up counseling, legal advocacy, community education, and medical and court accompaniment by over 40 trained volunteer advocates. Our domestic violence services include: crisis counseling, education, lethality assessments, safety planning, documentation of the abuse, referral and information, advocacy, and follow-up. We serve victims and survivors of all ages and both genders.
Why are you a member of MCASA?
Our MCASA membership gives us easy and timely access to state and national information and resources. We especially appreciate MCASA’s strong advocacy efforts on our behalf within the federal and state legislative and public policy arenas. SALI has proven to be an essential resource in identifying and representing the best interests of victims within the civil justice system. Our staff and volunteers consistently avail themselves of the exceptional training opportunities and technical assistance made possible by MCASA. And as a current member of the Board of Directors, I have personally witnessed the powerful impact MCASA has made within our state, amplified by the collective voices of recovery centers and victims.
What Sexual Assault Prevention work does your program do?
We offer community education to any organization at no charge with the goal of increasing public awareness of sexual assault and abuse. We customize our presentations for audiences of all ages and focus on the dynamics of sexual assault, myths and facts, prevention and avoidance, and the emotional impact on victims and their families. We also feature bystander intervention techniques (based on the Green Dot Program), which helps thePrince George’s County community to take skillful action if they witness inappropriate attitudes and behavior. Our audiences include the faith-based community, community-based organizations, professional organizations, and the public and private school systems. We also work closely with Bowie State University, the University ofMaryland and Prince George’s Community College to promote optimal campus intervention and safety.
Does anything make sexual assault work different in Prince George’s County compared to the rest of Maryland?
Prince George’s County is an urban area plagued with urban problems such as gang activity, sex and labor trafficking, drug use, and street crime. It ranks second in the state for the highest number of rape and child sex abuse cases reported each year to the authorities. The County has a large and growing Hispanic population. All of these factors drive our response approaches and prevention efforts.
Prince George’s County is home to Andrews AFB and in close proximity to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling AFB. Because of our long and solid history of experience, the Department of Defense has designated the DV/SAC as its sexual assault training site for their advocates and their victims are brought here for their FNE examinations.
If your program received $100,000 in new funds today, what would you do with it?
This is an easy question to answer! We would augment our staff so we can expand our domestic violence services, community education efforts, and the number of therapy sessions we can provide. Having a mobile forensic response unit staffed by FNEs would give us the ability to expedite the medical/forensic examination process for sexual assault victims who present at sites other than our Hospital.
This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Frontline.