A non-profit agency based in Livingston County wants sexual assault victims to call them first, before the police.
LACASA Center offers medical care, including a rape kit that meets law enforcement standards, counseling, and legal support to victims in a safe and confidential setting. Victims are under no obligation to report their crime to police, but if they choose to do so, LACASA can guide them through a legal process that can be difficult and at times shaming for victims.
LACASA received a contract from the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Treatment Board for $83,000 to provide a sexual assault nurse examiner program (SANE). The center's director, Bobette Schrandt, says sexual assaults often go unreported. "What we wanted to do with our campaign is to really encourage sexual assault victims to come forward to receive services," Schrandt says. Many victims believe they are obligated to call law enforcement first when a sexual assault has occurred. Schrandt says this is untrue. Victims can call LACASA first, instead.
When victims reach out to LACASA, they are eligible to immediately receive a suite of services from professionals who have a higher level of training than the average law enforcement officer. Other services include a consultation with a legal advocate and a trauma therapist.
"We are able to help a victim of a sexual assault learn all of the options available to her, including reporting to the police, and should she choose to do that, what are the ramifications of doing that, what are the positives. We let him or her know all of the choices available," says Schrandt.
Victims can choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam, or a rape kit, but are under no obligation to release the evidence to police or press charges.
Services at LACASA's private facility are available around the clock. Schrandt says the center can also provide specialized care for child victims of sexual assault, which is not available in ordinary emergency rooms.
LACASA is a service of Livingston County, but the center does not turn away any victim, and has served many from other counties.
Schrandt says the police support LACASA's "Call Us First" campaign, and have partnered with the center. "We have a wonderful relationship with law enforcement here in this community."