On Wednesday, Feb. 24, a panel of four experts discussed and answered questions pertaining to sexual assault in the criminal justice system.
The Pre-Law Society, the Committee on Consent Education and Awareness and Safe Space sponsored the event.
While attendance reached a count of 16 people, James Basuk ’17, an attendee, said, “This was really the first time I have heard about sexual assault in context of the legal system, even after I attended the other sexual assault talks earlier this year.”
The panelists were Anita Brudos, Tom Ciampolillo, Lori Sendra and Christina Tremante.
Anita Brudos, a registered Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, spoke about the process by which cases of sexual assault are handled by the Wicker Wellness Center. Brudos is contracted, along with nine other nurses from around the area, to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Brudos described how she would conduct a rape kit exam when a victim reports to or calls the Wicker Wellness Center. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, a rape kit is a sexual assault forensic exam that collects evidence of sexual assault by use of documentation, forensic materials and containers for evidence storage.
Though the process “normally takes around four to six hours,” according to Brudos, she also stated that “it allows (her to) listen to the victim, discuss options, and give medications such as antibiotics, HIV prophylaxis medications and Plan B.”
She also mentioned that, “we do not force anyone to report sexual assault to the police even if we do a rape kit exam. And even though the evidence will go to the police, it will only be used if a case goes to trial.”
Ciampolillo, a detective who works for city of Schenectady, said that if a victim of sexual assault agrees to report the incident to the police, he will immediately respond in order to write a report from the victim’s point of view.
Responding to a student’s concern about the interview, he assured that, “the interview is just to get the victim’s version of events. It is not an interrogation and is performed in a very sensitive manner. Mostly, it is to form a relationship with the victim.”
He then stated that the evidence is turned over to the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office with the victim’s permission. If there is enough for a probable case in prosecution, the office will allow for him to make an arrest.
Tremante, a member of the Class of 2001, works for the special victims unit at the DA’s Office, which is responsible for sexual assault prosecution.
Tremante spoke about the extensive forensic work and research that must be invested in every case, and she imparted advice to any Union students that are involved intimately with friends or family dealing with sexual assault. She said, “Listening and support is the most important thing you can do for them.”
Sendra, a victim advocate for Planned Parenthood, relayed the resources and support that victims of sexual assault can access from the state.
She said that a victim always has access to crisis counseling and legal assistance throughout the entire process. She dispelled the misconception that a victim is required to provide medical insurance at the emergency room, assuring attendees of the panel event that the state of New York would pay for the medical costs associated with sexual assault.
Sendra said, “Victims should not be afraid to reach out for help. There are many groups that will provide guidance throughout the difficult process.”
Two sexual assaults have been reported at Union since the beginning of 2016, according to crime and fire logs published in the Concordiensis.