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Aiken Public Safety earns state designation for how it handles cases of sex assault
Going above and beyond in assisting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, the Aiken Department of Public Safety received a special designation.
On Thursday, the Aiken Department of Public Safety received a Sexual Assault Forensic Excellence designation for the care it provided to sexual assault and domestic violence victims.
The SAFE designation program was launched April 1, 2022 and is made possible through a partnership with South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Hospital Association.
The designation is good for two years, and ADPS will have to reapply for the designation.
Several hospitals throughout the state have also received the SAFE designation.
“It makes me very proud today to present Aiken with the very first law enforcement designation for the State of South Carolina,” said Amanda Brown, coordinator for forensic nursing with SCVAN.
Sabrina Gast, a SCVAN representative and statewide forensic nurse director, said the Forensic Nurse Examiner Task Force was started in 2019 because a state assessment found there were parts of South Carolina that didn’t have medical professionals who were properly trained to collect evidence from victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
She said one goal of the taskforce is make sure sexual assault victims have proper assistance.
Gast said through the taskforce the SAFE designation was created. Gast said in order for Aiken Public Safety to receive the SAFE designation, 75% of the staff had to complete two hours of SCVAN-sponsored training over the course of four weeks, appoint someone to track the sexual assuault kit, attend meetings and complete an application.
Gast said the training includes sexual assault basics, evidence collection and preservation, how to interview victims, human trafficking red flags and strangulation methods. South Carolina does consider strangulation a felony.
“It trains their staff in how to better interact with sexual assault victims, and they are now more familiar with the resources available, both statewide and locally,” Gast said. Brown said the SAFE designation began with hospitals. “We are the first state to take on this approach and we have had several hospitals, several rape crisis centers and several EMS agencies take part in the designation thus far, we have not however a law enforcement agency prior to today,” said Brown.
Aiken Department of Public Safety Police Chief Charles Barranco said the designation didn’t happen through training alone, but because of the care and compassion from fire and police, investigators and all of the partnerships within the Aiken community.
He said it SAFE designation will serve the victims the most.
“Ultimately this best serves victims of sexual assault and that is the most important part of this,” Barranco said.