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Abuse victims getting one-stop shopping
"Put yourself in the shoes of a battered or sexually abused spouse, partner or child who is trying to seek justice against their attacker while surviving emotionally.It can be done, but it could take a while. That, and a lot of heartache. The entire process generally involves running around to several locations, including a traumatic trip to a brightly lit hospital room filled with brisk voices, a visit to a local police department for in-depth interviews, during which the abuse is relived; interviews at the prosecutor's office amid stacks of court papers and a frantic search for shelter, hidden from the attacker.Victims become victims all over again, and the cycle of abuse repeats itself, as a result.State legislators in 1999 figured this entire process, at once important and traumatic to victims, could become a little more user-friendly if local jurisdictions create a specific protocol to follow. So lawmakers recently required local governments to set up just such an arrangement.For Kitsap County's part, prosecutor Russ Hauge, senior deputy prosecutor Ione George and Sheriff Steve Boyer got together to fulfill this mandate, and much more. As a result, local governments and agencies formed an association called the Kitsap Special Assault Investigation and Victim Services (SAIVS) to better serve and seek justice for victims of domestic and sexual assault.Hauge asked the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners Monday to approve the association, so members could immediately compete for federal and state funds on the group's behalf and on behalf of abuse victims.The idea behind the association, modeled after other such groups nationwide, is to co-locate various public and private agencies to help victims of sexual and domestic assault in a cohesive, less traumatic setting, whether they are children or adults, Hauge said. Victims could be able travel to one place in Port Orchard and receive protection orders, speak with prosecutors and local police officers, undergo forensic evidence testing and seek shelter if necessary.That's much better than asking victims to jump from one place to the next, officials say.Hauge told commissioners that because groups belonging to the association already carry sexual assault and domestic violence divisions and experts, they won't have to hire or train any employees for the center.This effort won't cost the cities or the county money because the association plans to seek funding elsewhere through private and public grants, said Hauge, explaining the commissioners' approval Monday would only mean the county sanctions the endeavor and supports the association's efforts to locate funding. Association members will only be required to secure operational funding, Hauge said, noting the money would come from federal and state grants not yet secured.The center, which will initially be set up to help child victims of sexual assault, is expected to expand later to provide one place for sexual assault or domestic violence victims, whether they are kids or adults.I think this will make a difference on the streets immediately, Sheriff Boyer said. While the number of arrests will increase, the admissions to the hospital should steadily decrease. And, those who've seen what happens to the victims out there, also know we have to right the cycle immediately. "