Stacey Brietzke, Director of Marketing Communications, Ten8Tech
Seek Then Speak and Victim Link: Linking sexual assault victims to resources and support
There is no shame when a loved one dies, when your car is stolen, or when you’re diagnosed with cancer. Friends and loved ones gather for support. They don’t blame you. They don’t say, “you brought this on yourself.”
So why is it different when someone comes forward about sexual assault?
Often, when sexual assault victims find the courage to speak out, they are blamed or not believed. Without support, the assault becomes a source of shame and it can have destructive effects on families, communities, and society.
But a team of people, united across the nation, are dedicated to changing this.
In 2003, Sgt. Joanne Archambault, who retired from the San Diego Police Department after almost 23 years in law enforcement, founded End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) to improve responses to sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence.
Today, EVAWI is America’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving criminal justice responses to sexual assault. In the past 10 years, nearly 25,000 people participated in EVAWI’s OnLine Training Institute, growing with about 4,500 new registrations in 2017 alone. Last year, these users participated in more than 8,000 modules, racking up more than 1.6 million hours of training. Additionally, in 2017, EVAWI’s website had nearly 4.6 million page views and visitors downloaded an average of 1,027 resources per day.
EVAWI strives to improve the way survivors are treated, pursue accountability for perpetrators, and prevent future attacks. Yet, there is an understanding that most sexual assault victims never report the crime to law enforcement, often because of the responses they receive when they first tell someone about their assault.
That’s why EVAWI created its Start by Believing campaign — to prepare professionals and loved ones to respond appropriately to sexual assault disclosures and improve outcomes for victims.
Start by Believing launched during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April 2011 in conjunction with the International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Stalking hosted by EVAWI in Chicago, Illinois.
Today, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma are official Start by Believing States, and there are hundreds of other Start by Believing communities across the globe.
Start by Believing is more than just a few words. It is not simply a pledge that an individual might take, or a public awareness campaign that an agency or community might adopt. It is not a specific phrase that needs to be said to victims. Rather, Start by Believing is a philosophical stance that should guide responses to sexual assault.
“Start by Believing is a philosophy designed to ‘flip the script’ on the negative messages victims have historically received when reporting a sexual assault,” Archambault said. “A positive reaction can increase the chance they will report to law enforcement and reach out for help from other sources.”
But what happens next? After Start by Believing, how do we help?
Platform Utilizes Microsoft’s secure, cloud-hosted Azure Gov. technology
That’s where Ten8Tech steps in with its innovative, secure, Microsoft Azure Government-hosted platforms, Seek Then Speak and Victim Link.
Ten8’s CEO and President, Anthony Formhals, like Archambault, is a former law enforcement officer. As a patrol officer in Chula Vista, California, for eight years, he spent a lot of time doing reports for events like fender benders and lost cell phones — but what he really wanted to do was better protect and serve his community.
Understanding how much time is spent on non-emergency reports when law enforcement resources could be more effectively used elsewhere, Formhals founded Ten8Tech and created Case Service, patented technology that allows citizens to file non-emergency reports by voice over the phone, via text or mobile app, or on the web.
In 2016, while speaking at a conference for the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police (AACOP), Formhals met Chief Jerald Monahan, a veteran law enforcement officer with more than 38 years of experience, who now serves as EVAWI’s Law Enforcement Liaison. Chief Monahan was a past president of AACOP when he heard Formhals talk about Case Service. He asked Formhals if the technology could be used to take rape reports.
“I knew Case Service wasn’t the right product for what he envisioned,” Formhals said, “but Chief Monahan’s enthusiasm got me thinking about how we could use its core technology to help sexual assault victims.”
From there, Victim Link was borne.
“Using our Victim Link technology to link sexual assault victims with law enforcement and victim advocacy organizations just made sense,” Formhals said. “So, with EVAWI’s expertise and resources, we worked collaboratively to also create Seek Then Speak to help victims.”
SeekThenSpeak.org is a national, multilingual platform that enables victims and their support people to gather information, explore options, and take action. They can connect however they are most comfortable – by voice over the phone, via the web, or by using a mobile app. Victims can even begin the process of reporting directly to law enforcement and requesting supportive services through Victim Link.
“Enhancing this service with Seek Then Speak and Victim Link will only provide improved services for our citizens,” said Ricardo Martinez II, Public Safety Director and Chief of Police for the City of Nevada, Iowa. “Providing the best services to our community is our primary goal. We believe this new technology will help us to pursue our mission, and improve responses, services, and access for victims of crime.”
All of this takes place within the secure, cloud-hosted environment of Microsoft Azure Gov, and complies with all law enforcement data security guidelines.
“This technology will allow us, as a community, to offer education and assistance in a manner that is consistent with how many college-age people communicate, which is predominantly electronically,” said Michael Thompson, Chief of Police from the Arizona State University Police Department.
Expanding this technology’s reach, not just to Arizona State University, but across the nation, remains a priority for Ten8 and EVAWI. Thanks to new grant funding, they’re finding new ways to do just that.
In September 2017, the Office of Justice Programs’ Office for Victims of Crime awarded EVAWI grant funding to enhance services for victims of crime across the United States. The funding is through the Vision 21: Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime program.
EVAWI is committed to continuing its partnership with Ten8Tech to expand and enhance Seek Then Speak and Victim Link to improve responses, services, and access for victims of crime. Through this opportunity, no-cost Victim Link subscriptions are offered to eligible law enforcement agencies and victim advocacy organizations to expand the reach of Seek Then Speak and Victim Link across the nation. Agencies can easily apply for the no-cost subscriptions on the Victim Link website.
The expertise, technology, and financial support is there, but why is this technology needed?
“As few as one in five victims report their sexual assault,” Kristina Rose, EVAWI’s Executive Director, said. Before joining EVAWI late last year, Rose previously served as the Deputy Director at the U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), so she understands the far-reaching impact of these non-reported assaults.
“Most victims do not contact health care providers or victim advocates,” she explained. “Many fear not being believed or blamed for the assault. Without a report, help remains out of reach for most victims.”
“Seek Then Speak and Victim Link can help us better serve these victims, close the gaps in service delivery, and promote justice and healing,” added Ann Burdges, EVAWI’s Director of Communications and Systems Innovation.
Burdges, a former law enforcement officer and sex crimes investigator, most recently served as CEO and Executive Director of the Gwinnett Sexual Assault Center & Children’s Advocacy Center in Atlanta. The immediate past vice president of EVAWI’s board of directors, she joined EVAWI in 2017 to oversee the $1.4 million grant from OVC to improve access to sexual assault reporting options and victim advocacy.
Through this funding, EVAWI is working with Ten8Tech to provide no-cost, one-year Victim Link subscriptions to eligible law enforcement agencies and victim advocacy organizations.
“This has been a tremendously rewarding partnership,” Formhals said. “We look forward to working with EVAWI to help achieve its vision of a world where gender-based violence is unacceptable, where perpetrators are held accountable, and victims receive the compassion, support, and justice they deserve.”
EVAWI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating those who respond to gender-based violence, equipping them with the knowledge they need to support victims and hold offenders accountable. For more information, visit www.evawintl.org.
Ten8Tech, established in 2012, is a technology company that creates intelligent, automated communications products for public service. With its patented Communication Fabric technology, Dialogue Framework, Ten8Tech enables two-way dialogue through products that simplify complexities and expedite communications between citizens and those who serve them. For more information, visit www.ten8tech.com.