New NIJ FTCoE Webinar Series Helps Agencies Help the Most Vulnerable

Earlier in 2018, when the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (NIJ FTCoE), led by RTI International, highlighted upcoming projects in its sexual assault reform initiative, a webinar series on responding to special populations was in the early stages of development (see TechBeat April 2018, “There’s an App for That, and a Glossary, and Several Other FTCoE Sexual Assault Investigation Products”). Less than a year later, not only is this webinar series up and running, Paige Presler-Jur, special initiative lead, is working with collaborators on new topics that will keep the series going well into 2019.

As of December 2018, the FTCoE had hosted two webinars, “Providing Gender Inclusive Care to Victims of Sexual Assault” and “Responding to Sexual Assault Victims of Color,” both available in archival form here. In 2019, look for additional webinars on the elderly, college and university campuses, the Hispanic/Latino (a) community and more.

“It’s been said by others that when you improve your response to sexual assault for your most vulnerable victims, you improve your response to all victims,” Presler-Jur says. “And if you focus on serving the stereotypical victim you might have in your head, you might miss providing needed services to victims in special populations. You won’t help those victims get on the path to recovery. Each community should determine gaps or barriers for special populations and find a way to bring services to those populations in a way that connects them to the criminal justice system. When an agency helps members of a vulnerable population find a way to heal, it promotes better case outcomes for them, and overall.”

Input from the field on those challenges has helped inform the selection of the topics for the series, and Presler-Jur says that when staff members hear from a jurisdiction that needs help with serving a particular community, they try to find an individual or agency that has experience working with that population: “We’re gathering expertise so that we can provide suggestions for law enforcement policies and guidance on evidence collection with special populations.”

For example, she says, the series launched with a webinar on the LBGTQ community, with a special focus on working with transgender victims and “understanding how gender inclusive care will allow professionals to help victims reach a path to healing and at the same time, prevent secondary victimization. In the second event, we focused on the important role played by cultural history and discussed ways to be trauma informed and engage with victims of color.”

The third event, on working with the elderly, will look not only at sexual assault response, but also will discuss elder abuse in general. Lt. Jordan Satinsky, a deputy commander in the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department, and his team will lend his expertise on the subject, along with Dr. Lyndsie Ferrara, who is one of three subject-matter experts collaborating with the FTCoE on the project. The collaborators include:

  • Dr. Ferrara, forensic science teaching assistant professor at Duquesne University.
  • Dr. Julie Valentine, assistant professor at Brigham Young University College of Nursing and a certified adult/adolescent sexual assault nurse with Wasatch Forensic Nurses.
  • Teresa M. Stafford, senior director of Victim Services and Outreach at Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

To learn more about their backgrounds and the Improving Sexual Assault Response Within Special Populations webinar series in general, visit the NIJ FTCoE website at the link above. The NIJ FTCoE makes all webinars available to the public at no charge in both live and archival formats.

“If you can’t watch it at the moment it takes place, you can watch it whenever it fits your schedule. They’re always available online. You can watch them in segments if you need to, you can watch from a computer, from a tablet or from your phone. They’re always accessible,” Presler-Jur says.

For more information on the NIJ FTCoE webinar series on sexual assault among special populations, contact Paige Presler-Jur at (919) 541-6813 or email pjur@rti.org. For more information on NIJ’s forensic portfolio, contact Gerald LaPorte, Director, NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, at Gerald.Laporte@usdoj.gov.

Article photo: iStock.com/Carlo107

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