Victim in Nebergall case turned to PBC Victims Services

Posted at 9:57 PM, Dec 08, 2016
The woman who claims PBSO deputy Jason Nebergall assaulted her came to Palm Beach County's Victims Services and Certified Rape Crisis Center for help. The investigation into what happened started with their forensic exam site -- the Butterfly House inside Wellington Regional Medical Center.
"It is unusual to find that a victim is violated by a law enforcement officer. And when it does happen, I think we've seen in the news where the turn around with our authorities has been quick," said Carol Messam-Gordon, program coordinator for Victims Services.
That's because victims services works extensively with law enforcement across the Palm Beach County.
"Making sure that if there is one bad apple in the group, that that person is reprimanded and that person is not on their force. And I commend them for that. In this case, from what I have seen on the news, it appears that is what happened," she said. "We have phenomenal law enforcement officers that are out there. We work with them every day."
Victims Services created the Sexual Assault Response Team to work hand-in-hand with local police agencies.
"We put protocols in place to make sure victims are supported," she said.
Gordon said the Butterfly House is a place victims can go for counseling, 24-hour crisis response and support from Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
"We tell victims, please report. The support is there with Palm Beach County Victim Services," said Gordon. "If they want to do a rape exam, they always have an advocate that is there to walk them through the entire process to assist them and provide emotional support that they need. And they help them get through it from the time they report, to give them that emotional support, to talk about what happened."
Gordon says less than 30 percent of assault victims nationwide report to law enforcement. 
"I think a lot of our victims don't report because of a fear of reprisal. And I think a lot of victims fear that they won't be believed and I think that's the hardest thing," she said.
Gordon added that it can be even more difficult for victims in assaults involving positions of trust.
"Whether it's clergy, whether it's law enforcement, hospital staff -- these are people that victims will go to. It's a security for them. It's someone in authority. Someone that they can tell, someone that they can trust," she said. "So having one person violate the trust, that is not how our system works."
On average, victims services sees about 30 sexual assault cases a month total in Palm Beach County. The rape kits that are processed are turned over to law enforcement if the victim wants to pursue charges. 
The victim has up to a year to pursue charges after the kit is processed with Victims Services. If charges are pursued, there is a time limit in processing the evidence once the kit is handed over to authorities.
"Because of Senate bill 636, law enforcement has 30 days to then turn that kit over to the crime lab."
Then the lab has four months to test it. In the Nebergall case, it took from late July to October when a lab confirmed Nebergall's DNA matched the evidence in the victim's rape kit.
But for Victims Services, help for its clients doesn't stop there.
"The case is assigned to an advocate to follow that case, from the time the victims reports, all the way to prosecution and beyond," said Gordon. 
Victims Services has a 24-hour Rape Crisis hotline. Just call 561-833-7273. Click here to visit their website.